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With barely more than a month to go before Election Day, there has been one thing practically nonexistent this cycle: bitcoin.

The virtual currency, which made waves when the Office of Campaign and Political Finance said in January it was A-OK for campaigns to accept, is currently invisible.

That is, with one exception.

State Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) has raised an itty-bitty $25 in bitcoin, because why not?

He said one of his constituents, who is all about the currency which is worth as much as people say it is, wanted to try it out.

I had to turn to my college intern to get the lowdown on bitcoin, Cutler said. I had heard of bitcoin but I didnt know anything about it.

The controversial currency almost had a brush with the gubernatorial race. In December, an attorney for the Charlie Baker campaign asked campaign finance officials if it would be kosher to hold a fundraiser and ask for bitcoins.

In a regulated industry it is important for campaigns to remain constantly informed of the impact of new technologies, Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said.

The fundraiser never happened.

Campaign representatives for Baker, Maura Healey, Evan Falchuk and Seth Moulton all said they have not received any contributions in bitcoin. Attorney General Martha Coakleys campaign did not respond.

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Bitcoin makes an itty-bitty splash in MA politics

Defend Freedom in Kentucky, Defeat Alison Grimes
It's your choice and your right to own a firearm for self-defense, but Alison Lundergan Grimes won't defend your rights. This Election Day, vote for the candidate who has defended your…


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Defend Freedom in Kentucky, Defeat Alison Grimes – Video

Josh Blackman links to an interesting new speech by (retired) Justice Stevens about the Courts campaign finance jurisprudence. Among other things, Justice Stevens argues that there ought to be little protection (or no protection?) for campaign contributions made across state lines. He begins . . .:

In the first sentence of his controlling opinion [in McCutcheon v. FEC] the Chief Justice correctly states that there is no right more basic to our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders. 188 L. Ed.2d 468, 482. And in his concluding paragraph he correctly describes that right as the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them. Id., at 507 (Emphases added).

McCutcheons complaint, however, makes it clear that his objection to the federal statute was based entirely on its impairment of his ability to influence the election of political leaders for whom he had no right to vote. He is an Alabama citizen; in the 2012 election cycle he made equal contributions to different candidates, only two of whom were from Alabama. The other thirteen were campaigning in California, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. Of primary significance is the fact that his only complaint about the federal statute was its prohibition against his making contributions in 2014 to candidates in twelve other non-Alabama elections Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

To the best of my knowledge in none of the Courts cases prior to McCutcheon has the Court even mentioned a citizens supposed right to participate in elections in which he or she has no right to vote. It surely has not characterized it as a basic right of unparalleled importance.

Among other things, Justice Stevens draws on Bluman v. FEC, an opinion by Judge Kavanaugh that held that non-resident aliens had no right to make contributions or expenditures about American elections, and that was summarily affirmed (unanimously!) by the Supreme Court.

This is an interesting point, although I am not at all convinced by Justice Stevenss analysis. For a different take, here is an excerpt from Jessica Bulman-Pozens recent article, Partisan Federalism:

Bluman v. FEC: Political Engagement Across State Lines

In recent years, political engagement across state lines has increased dramatically. This engagement is not limited to out-of-state spending for federal representatives, but also extends to state electoral contests and referenda. In the 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, for instance, out-of-state contributions made up a majority of Governor Scott Walkers arsenal and nearly a third of challenger Tom Barretts funds. For South Dakotas 2006 referendum on abortion, a substantial majority of the funds for both sides came from other states. As one commentator puts it: Means of communication, fundraising and also campaigning are becoming nationaland its affecting state and even local races.

Cross-state engagement furnishes powerful evidence of partisan federalism. For one thing, party organizations are among the most active cross-state participants; the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into state races in the past decade.261 Party actors recognize the power of the states as platforms for national conflict. But so too do individuals, who get involved directly in out-of-state politics for many reasons. In some cases, a donor might contemplate moving to a different state to take advantage of a new policy or visiting to benefit from the policy during a briefer stay. In other cases, one states decisions may effectively set policy for the entire nation. But in perhaps the largest number of cases, Americans do not stand to benefit immediately or directly from out-of-state political involvement. Instead, they seek to create momentum for a particular policy or political party, to build a real-life example to inform national debate, or simply to take comfort in knowing that their preferences are actual policyand their partisan group is in control somewhere. By channeling money toward states other than their own and embracing the kind of surrogate representation I have explored in Part III, these individuals are enacting partisan federalism.

If we see cross-state political participation, however, it is not because existing federalism doctrine or theory supports the practice. Instead, it is because such activity has been protected as expression under the First Amendment. Today, only Alaska and Hawaii impose any limits on out-of-state contributions, and no state limits out-of-state expenditures. Although the Alaska Supreme Court upheld the states residency-based limits, citing deep suspicions of the motives and wisdom of those who, from outside its borders, wish to remold Alaska, federal courts have rejected, on First Amendment grounds, attempts by other states to impose similar restrictions. Courts have also largely invalidatedas inconsistent with the First Amendmentstate requirements that petition circulators be state residents. While these courts have focused on the expressive dimensions of cross-border contributions and expenditures and have not considered their validity from a federalism perspective, a recent case raises the question of whether such expressive activity undermines American federalism and may accordingly be proscribed. In Bluman v. FEC, a three-judge panel of the D.C. District Court took up a loose end left by the Supreme Courts holding in Citizens United v. FEC: whether the Government has a compelling interest in preventing foreign individuals or associations from influencing our Nations political process. In a decision summarily affirmed by the Supreme Court, the court upheld a provision of federal law that prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions or expenditures in connection with federal, state, or local elections. The court reasoned that the case did not turn on the First Amendment questions that have dominated campaign finance jurisprudence but rather a foundational question about the definition of the American political community. It is fundamental to the definition of our national political community, the court maintained, that foreign citizens do not have a constitutional right to participate in, and thus may be excluded from, activities of democratic self-government. Recognizing political contributions and expenditures as integral to electoral processes, the court proceeded to define them as both speech and participation in democratic self-government. Accordingly, it reasoned, limitations on foreign contributions and expenditures are all part of the sovereigns obligation to preserve the basic conception of a political community.

The rest is here:
Volokh Conspiracy: Is there a right to contribute to out-of-state elections?

WE ARE, as it always seems, “at a pivotal moment in American history.” At least that’s what Sens. Tom Udall and Bernie Sanders maintained in a melodramatic Politico op-ed last week as they explained their efforts to repeal the First Amendment.

Let me retort in their language:

It’s true that building the United States has been long, arduous and rife with setbacks. But throughout the years, the American people have repelled efforts to weaken or dismantle the First Amendment. We have weathered the Sedition Act of 1918, a law that led to the imprisonment of innocent Americans who opposed the war or the draft. Since then, we have withstood numerous efforts to hamper, chill and undermine basic free expression in the name of “patriotism.” We have, however, allowed elected officials to treat citizens as if they were children by arbitrarily imposing strict limits on their free speech in the name of “fairness.”

But nowadays, after five members of the Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment and treated all political speech equally, liberal activists and Democrats in the Senate would have us return to a time when government dispensed speech to favored institutions–as if it were the government’s to give.

In 2010, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 opinion striking down major parts of a 2002 campaign-finance reform law in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This case and subsequent rulings, including McCutcheon v. FEC, have led to more political activism and more grass-roots engagement than ever before. In the 2012 presidential election, we quickly saw the results. More Americans voted than in any election; more minorities voted; more Americans engaged in more debate and had more information in their hands than ever before. More than 60 percent of all those super PAC funds came from just 159 donors, each of whom gave more than $1 million. And still, every vote held the same sway. You may be persuaded by someone, but no one can buy your vote. I wish the same could be said for your senators.

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The Constitution protects the rich, too

Sep 152014

As election season enters full swing, Senate Democrats are taking the opportunity to garner votes by attempting to rewrite the Bill of Rights, something that hasnt been done since those rights were enshrined. They want to ask the nation to change the First Amendment so that it protects political speech only up to a point.

The timing is right. Nationally eight Senate races have already received more than $10 million each in outside spending, according to the Federal Election Commission. In Michigan, huge amounts of outside money have flooded into the race between Rep. Gary Peters and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

The group of senators supporting such a drastic move know it will never pass the extensive process needed to amend the Constitution. But it gives them an opportunity to try to convince Americans once again that corporations and wealthy individuals who give money to political candidates or campaigns should be stripped of their fundamental right to free speech.

The move is blatantly hypocritical, since the supporting senators have all received huge donations themselves. But it is unfortunately the logical end of the flawed Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as McCain-Feingold) signed into law under former President George W. Bush.

The Supreme Court has upheld the principle that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech to individuals, organizations and even corporations, and that dedicating time and money to political candidates and causes is protected speech.

Though there are limits on what amount an individual can give to any one political candidate, most other extreme limitations on spending and speech have been struck down by the court.

As much as this debate has already focused on Republican donors chiefly the Koch brothers, who fund mega-PACs such as Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action and others Democrats benefit from huge campaign donations as much, if not more.

Climate change activist Tom Steyer has given more than $20 million to support Democratic candidates in this election cycle. Hes followed by former New York Mayor and gun control activist Michael Bloomberg, who has given more than $9 million this year, almost entirely to liberal groups.

Both sides take money from rich people and corporations. And certainly it would be nice if there were less money in politics.

But the Constitution does not permit politicians to place arbitrary restrictions on speech. Protecting the First Amendment should not give way to those so determined to gain a partisan edge that they are willing to rewrite the fundamental rights of Americans.

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Free speech needs no amending

Sep 092014

Several Senate Republicans joined Democrats on Monday to advance a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states greater power to regulate campaign finance.

But the bipartisanship ends there.

Many of the Republicans only voted for the bill to foul up Democrats pre-election messaging schedule, freezing precious Senate floor time for a measure that ultimately has no chance of securing the two-thirds support necessary in both the House and Senate to amend the Constitution.

The legislation needed 60 votes to advance and Democrats took a cynical view of the 79-18 tally. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the GOPs tactic was simply to stall because it would eat up limited floor time that Democrats are eyeing for votes aimed at encouraging gender pay equity and raising the minimum wage.

(McConnell for POLITICO Magazine: The Democrats’ assault on free speech)

They know were getting out of here fairly shortly and they want to prevent discussion on other very important issues, said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). I would love to be proven wrong. But if the end of this week, we end up getting 67 votes, you can tell me I was too cynical.

But campaign finance is not a debate that Senate Republicans are shying away from and their argument is being led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who penned an op-ed for POLITICO on Monday that portrayed Democrats as fixated on repealing the free speech protections the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans.

Not surprisingly, a proposal as bad as the one Senate Democrats are pushing wont even come close to garnering the votes it would need to pass. But to many Democrats, thats just the point. They want this proposal to fail because they think that somehow would help them on Election Day, McConnell wrote.

Democrats see electoral benefits in their proposal, pointing to Democratic-commissioned polls in battleground states that show bipartisan majorities in support of limiting big donors influence in politics and in opposition to Super PACs. Party leaders and aides believe their campaign finance proposal is popular and places the GOP on the wrong side of public opinion so some Democratic aides said they were happy for the debate to consume the Senate this week and still plan to hold votes on raising the minimum wage and pay equity before breaking for campaign season.

Theyre volunteering to defend the Koch brothers and a campaign finance system voters hate, said one Senate aide.

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Constitutional amendment advances

A St. Paul judges ruling will level the playing field for political donations in Minnesota, halting a law that plaintiffs argued dishes out First Amendment rights on a first-come, first-served basis.

Only weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal limits on campaign donations in McCutcheon v. FEC, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank on Monday applied that precedent to a Minnesota campaign finance law that allowed some Minnesotans to donate more than others to the same candidate in state elections.

The federal court directed Minnesota officials to halt enforcement of the states special sources limit law. Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm, initiated the case.

The government should not be using campaign finance laws to play favorites, said Anthony Sanders, lead attorney for IJ in the constitutional challenge. This ruling means that all Minnesotans who want to support political candidates will enjoy the same rights, no matter when in the election they make their contribution.

Under the law, 12 contributors could donate up to $1,000 to a candidate for the state House. The 13th contributor, however, would be restricted to a donation of $500, due to a $12,500 special sources limit for large contributions. Similar limits with larger dollar amounts applied to candidates for state Senate and constitutional offices.

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Federal court puts MN campaign finance limits on hold

It has long been customary to divide the Republican Party into three camps: big business or Wall Street Republicans, the religious right and neoconservatives or national security Republicans. The third group, it must be admitted, somewhat unsteadily combines neoconservatives proper (such as William Kristol) with old-fashioned defense hawks (such as Donald Rumsfeld), but perhaps this is the Republican big tent we keep hearing about.

In any case, this neat three-part logic was roiled by two events in 2008: the Great Recession and the election of Barack Obama as president. The latters decision to respond to the crisis with a fairly traditional mix of demand-side remedies some tax cuts, some increased spending ignited a fire storm on the right. CNBCs Rick Santelli is often fingered as the principal arsonist. On Feb. 19, 2009, outraged by Obamas plan to assist homeowners caught up in the collapse of the housing market,Santelliwent on air to unburden himself of the following ideas:

The spark had been struck; the Tea Party roared to life. Five years later it has remade American politics, largely through its impact on the GOP. Profoundly alienated from the modern American state, which it regards as a bureaucratic embodiment of foreign social-democratic ideals, intensely ideological, intransigent and scornful of compromise, the Tea Party has used its electoral success in the South and Midwest and its power in primaries and caucuses to impose sharp limits on the policy options available to GOP politicians. Rick Santellis wildfire consumed immigration reform and an extension of unemployment benefits; it flared into a government shutdown and crept perilously close to two debt defaults.

One consequence of the Tea Party ascendancy has been a new prominence for the term libertarian. In many ways this is unfortunate. There is reason to believe that any connections between libertarianism and the Tea Party are tenuous at best. A recentstudyfound that 60 percent of libertarians do not identify with the Tea Party, while only 26 percent of Tea Party supporters think of themselves as libertarians. (Fully twice as many affiliate with the religious right.) Still, animpressionpersists that the Republican Party is increasingly animated by the spirit of John Galt. I think there are mainly four reasons for this.

The first is that some conservative activists, quick to sense the electoral (and financial) potential of the Tea Party, moved quickly to associate its concerns with their own, often quite different, agendas. (The absurdist theater that swirled around DickArmeysdeparture from FreedomWorks is apposite here.)

A second more important source of confusion is that libertarian, as a rubric, offers Republicans certain rhetorical advantages. It suggests theyreforsomething and not just against the Democrats, and that this something is related to liberty. (And it performs this latter function while avoiding the hated epithet liberal.) It also serves an irenic purpose insofar as it gestures at common ground for Tea Partyers, the religious right generally, and Wall Streeters. If these factions can agree on anything, its that they want less government meaning lessliberalgovernment and this is easily elided into the claim that they want more liberty. As long as no one inspects the logic too closely, this Were all libertarians now line can seem helpfully plausible. Which brings us to the fourth reason, a national media always ready to exploit the helpfully plausible in its constant search for the appealingly (or is it appallingly?) simple.

So one increasingly hears certain prominent Republicans referred to as libertarians or as members of the partys libertarian wing.Ted CruzandPaul Ryanhave been identified as such at one time or another, as have (with slightly more reason) bothPauls, Ron and Rand. This, again, is a mistake. As Ive arguedelsewhere,no important Republican politician is a libertarian. Still, perceptions are important in politics, and there is certainly no doubt that real libertarians belong noisily, busily belong to the Republican coalition.

Given this, all of us have an interest in understanding the nature of libertarian thought, and in knowing whether it forms the basis of a workable politics. Michael Lind has written brilliantly about these issues (here,for example) in the context of practical politics. I want to take them up in a more theoretical light. I will focus on the central concept of libertarian thought the idea of personal freedom and argue that it cannot be coherently explained on libertarian grounds. I will also argue that a libertarian society, if fully realized, would be actively hostile to the development of free selves. Libertarianism, in other words, cannot give a persuasive account of its own core concept. Its as close to self-refuting as a political theory can be.

* * *

Some criticisms of libertarian thought are unwarranted. For example, it issometimesalleged that libertarians lack concern for others, or are motivated only by greed, or embrace a crass, materialistic ethic. Libertarians think such charges are based on a simple confusion. Their intent is to advocate for liberty, they say; what free people choose to do with their liberty is an entirely separate matter. I think this reply is conclusive if it is meant to rebut the claim that libertarians, because they value freedom, must also value the content of every free choice. (In other contexts, as I will argue below, it is much less conclusive.) That claim really is a confusion. I do not have to approve of pornography simply because I endorse the First Amendment. Similarly, I do not have to approve of choices to be selfish or shallow because I favor economic and political liberty. Liberals, who are often on the receiving end of this kind of attack from conservative critics, should think twice before directing it at libertarians.

Libertarians reality problem: How an estrangement from history yields abject failure

By Matt Ward

Three new council members were elected and the first amendment to the city charter was passed by 25 votes Saturday in the City of Fredericksburg election held at Fredericksburg Middle School.

Of the citys 7,512 registered voters, only 16 percent (or 1,212 voters) actually cast their ballot in this years election.

I think that this election was more about the incumbents than it was about the amendment, charter amendment organizer Isabel Wertz said. I hope that the city will be more thoughtful in the future of how the revenue of the city is being spent.

Former mayor Linda Langerhans defeated current mayor Jeryl Hoover 687-494, while Jerry Luckenbach and Bobby Watson were elected to replace current council members Tim Dooley and Kathy Sanford.

Luckenbach led the council candidates with 683 votes, with Watson in second with 657 votes and incumbent Dooley in third with 513 votes. Sanford chose not to run for re-election.

Its going to be incumbent on the three new council members to get updated as soon as possible because theyre going to be dealing with these issues in the next several months, City Manager Kent Myers said Monday. There are a lot of things going on and so Im going to have to spend a lot of time with the three new council members bringing them up to date.

Agendas for the next two council meetings slated for May 19 and June 2 will likely be lighter than usual as the new council gets acclimated. The first council retreat with the newly elected officials is tentatively set for June 13.

I think the councils positions on certain issues will change with three new council members. The message Ive sent to staff is that Youll have to be adaptable to that change and understanding of that, Myers said. Whenever you have a majority of the council that turns over, there could be a new direction on some of these issues, whether its lighting standards or property tax collection. We want to try and get a feel for that as soon as possible so we dont go down the path even further if the majority of the council doesnt agree with that direction.

For more on this story, read this weeks print and online editions of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. If you are a print subscriber, your full online subscription is free. All you need to do is call 830-997-2155 to get a password. If you are not a subscriber, call 997-2155 or click on the Subscribe button on the left side of the home page and sign up today!

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City Charter amendment passes 581-556

Federal Election Commission Votes to Allow Bitcoin Political Donations
Article: Donate: Amazon Link: Appalachia is the cultural region in the Eastern United States that stretches from the Southern…

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Federal Election Commission Votes to Allow Bitcoin Political Donations – Video

Apr 30, 2014 1:43pm

In his first appearance in front of Capitol Hill lawmakers in nearly 30 years, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens made a pitch today for a new amendment to the Constitution.

Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns, Stevens said in front of a Senate Rules Committee.

The amendment is a proposal he had included in his book Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, published earlier this month.

But the former justice, who retired from the court in 2010, argued his amendment is even more necessary in the wake of the recent McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down aggregate donation caps on campaign contributions on the basis that the limits violated the First Amendment protection of free speech.

Stevens agreed with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in arguing that classifying any amendment as absolute would do away with limits on acts like screaming fire in a crowded movie theater.

It is fundamentally wrong to assume that preventing corruption is the only justification for laws limiting the First Amendment rights of candidates and their supporters, Stevens said.

(AP Photo)

Shortly before Stevens took the stand, Schumer announced a plan by Senate Democrats to vote this year on a new constitutional amendment by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., that would allow Congress to make laws restricting campaign finance contributions.

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Former Supreme Court Justice Wants to Amend the Constitution

The former prime minister argued today in a posting on his popular blog that the public must accept limits to their freedom, amid a series of challenges in recent years to the policies of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s policies and conduct.

If democracy is to survive and to serve the purpose for which it is devised, there must be some acceptance of the limits to the freedom that we consider democratic.

The world needs to make up its mind. Do we elect government by voting or do we install government through street demonstrations? Dr Mahathir said.

Race and religious tension has been on the rise in recent years with challenges to government policy which has been seen as marginalising non-Malays and non-Muslims.

There have also been widespread concerns about electoral fraud and unfair polls practises resulting in massive street demonstrations by electoral reform group Bersih.

The ruling BN lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority in Election 2008 and that was repeated in last year’s elections. In Election 2013 the BN coalition also lost the popular vote.

Dr Mahathir, who was known for his authoritarian administration, has been arguing in recent times for strong government.

In his latest blog post today, he said free speech, free press, demonstrations and strikes must be circumscribed to some degree so that they will not destroy democracies in the name of democracy.

In a non-democratic totalitarian state such massive demonstrations may be justified as there is no other way to change governments. But now even when elections can determine changes in governments, the losers in democratic elections have resorted to these disruptive acts.

Dr Mahathir claimed the series of Bersih demonstrations were obviously meant to excite public support to discredit the government and eventually to bring it down.

Excerpt from:
Dr M: Restrict freedom of speech and a free press to safeguard democracy

Supreme Court Preview/Review #2
Professor Ofer Raban talks about: McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission: Aggregate Limit on Campaign Donations under the First Amendment.

By: UOregon

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Supreme Court Preview/Review #2 – Video

Politics Campaign Finance

A federal judge in New York struck down the states limits on donations to independent political action committees, or super PACs, citing prior Supreme Court decisions with which he himself disagreed.

District Judge Paul Crotty ruled that New Yorks restrictions could not overcome First Amendment scrutiny given recent Supreme Court decisions, Reuters reports, including a ruling on campaign finance earlier this month and the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

We know what the Supreme Court has held, whether we like it or not, and Im bound to follow it, he said during a hearing in Manhattan federal court, according to Reuters.

The state had limited how much individuals could give super PACS, which are supposed to operate independently from a candidates campaign. A federal appeals court blocked the state from enforcing the limits in October, pending a final decision, and Crottys ruling will now allow independent super PACs in the state to raise unlimited funds.


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Federal Judge Strikes Down New Yorks Super PAC Limits

The Supreme Court will consider Tuesday whether an anti-abortion group can challenge an Ohio law that could have restricted it from publicly accusing a political candidate of voting for taxpayer-funded abortions in Obamacare.

The justices arent likely to decide whether the law chills free speechalthough Susan B. Anthony List and even the Ohio attorney general say that it does. Theyre instead being asked to decide whether SBA List has standing to challenge the law since the group was never prosecuted under it.

Still, the case has stirred up heated questions about whether the Ohio law and others like it violate First Amendment rights. Its also reignited the issue of whether the Affordable Care Act contains taxpayer funding for abortion.

(PHOTOS: 2014 March for Life)

The controversy first arose in 2010, when Democrat Steve Driehaus was running for reelection to Congress. In an effort to unseat him, SBA List prepared billboard ads saying Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted for taxpayer-funded abortion.

The message was in reference to the ACA, which abortion opponents say lacks adequate safeguards to ensure that insurance companies keep taxpayer dollars separate from other funding used to cover abortions.

Although the billboards didnt go up, Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission, and a three-member panel found probable cause that their planned message could be false. The state statute makes it a crime to knowingly publish false statements about a political candidate.

Driehaus lost his re-election bid, and the complaint was dismissed. But SBA List filed a lawsuit against the commission and the Ohio secretary of state to overturn the law. The group has lost in both federal district court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, with each concluding that it has no standing to sue because the billboards never actually appeared and the group was never prosecuted under the law.

(CARTOONS: Matt Wuerker on Obamacare)

SBA List contends that requiring groups and individuals to defend the truth of a political comment before the state election commission has an unconstitutionally chilling effect on the right to free speech.

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Abortion at heart of Ohio speech case

THE U.S. Supreme Courts decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was only out a few minutes before elected officials and campaign-finance reformers began condemning it as another disastrous step toward an American oligarchy.

But Americans should not be alarmed by the ruling. The decision is consistent with the First Amendment and with Americas long tradition of unrestricted political speech.

The case concerned a federal law that restricted how many candidates or political committees a donor could support with a maximum campaign contribution.

Shaun McCutcheon, the plaintiff in the case, contributed the maximum amount to 16 federal candidates, but the law made it a crime for him to contribute a single cent more to another candidate. He sued, arguing that the law violated his First Amendment right to support the candidates of his choice.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court agreed.

The laws demise will have little practical effect. Donors rarely reached the aggregate limit. According to a statement by the Federal Election Commission, only 646 donors reached the biennial limit of $123,200 in 2012. The additional contributions the decision permits will still be subject to limits on how much money someone can contribute to an individual candidate. Moreover, the laws regulating Washington state elections do not have this kind of aggregate limit.

Opponents of the decision argue that it is still wrong, based mainly on slogans like money isnt speech and an ill-founded concern that treating financial contributions as protected under the First Amendment will allow billionaires to buy democracy or drown out the voices of speakers with less money.

In a narrow sense, these opponents are correct about one thing: Money is not speech. But money enables speech, and that is why the right to make political contributions is protected by the First Amendment.

This is an enormous and heavily populated country. The Puget Sound region alone is home to 3 million people. In order to communicate with voters and for voters to hear from candidates, it takes money.

Try publishing a book, making a video or printing a flyer without spending one penny. It cannot be done. This means that if the government can restrict how much money one can spend in disseminating a political message, it can effectively silence any speech that carries beyond the sound of your voice.

The rest is here:
Guest: Supreme Court McCutcheon ruling protects political speech

In striking down the aggregate limits on contributions to candidates, PACs and political parties challenged in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court delivered a victory not only to political donors seeking to support more challenges to incumbents, but to everyone who is affected by American politics and law. The reason is a key and often forgotten point about the First Amendment: it protects speech, not speakers.

Freedom of speech is often treated as a contemptible burden in American politics; something that must be endured but not respected. When hateful speech is heard, or a wealthy individual spends huge sums of money on speech we disagree with, we commonly ask why they ought to possess a right that we feel does more harm than good. This was the general reaction to the McCutcheon decision: why does anyone need the right to spend more than $123,000 (the limit declared unconstitutional) on political contributions?

This misses the point by focusing solely on the speaker and ignoring the broader social benefits that result from a free and uninhibited exchange of ideas. Speech is constitutionally protected and unlimited because society benefits from the increased knowledge that is generated by it, and because the government cannot be trusted to decide what speech is “good” and what speech is “bad”. Chief Justice Roberts writes in the McCutcheon decision that “The First Amendment does not protect the government, even when the government purports to act through legislation reflecting “collective speech.”"

The wisdom of this principle has been borne out by history, which teaches us that the power to censor is always used against those who criticize the powerful. This was true a century ago when the government prosecuted pacifists in World War I and communist sympathizers in the Red Scare. It is just as true today, when protestors at political conventions are put in caged “free speech zones”, such as at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and when a majority of the nation’s universities maintain unconstitutional speech codes used to punish criticism, such as occurred in 2007 when Valdosta State University had a student “administratively withdrawn” (expelled) for criticizing the construction of a parking garage on campus.

Speech restrictions of all kinds exist to protect those in power from criticism. In the case of contribution limits, incumbents are protected from challengers. Despite its reputation as a tool of the establishment, money spent on political speech actually creates an opportunity to challenge entrenched political interests by increasing voter knowledge. This is especially valuable for outsider candidates running grassroots campaigns without the aid of connections to the ruling class or major media corporations. Pessimism about politics might lead us to think money spent on political advertising is wasted, but research shows that spending in campaigns is correlated with higher voter turnout and higher levels of public knowledge. This should not be surprising; the more advertisements you see about a candidate, the more likely you are to want to figure out what all the commotion is about and discuss the race with your friends.

This is how unlimited political speech comes to benefit everyone affected by American public policy: through producing a more informed, engaged electorate. Yet when cases like McCutcheon are discussed in the public sphere, they are presented as “wins” for large donors and “losses” for the rest of us.

This is nonsensical – speech is not a zero sum game. We all benefit from the exchange of ideas, regardless of their source. That is why cries of “corporations are not people!” are not an adequate response to the Citizens United decision which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums of money on political speech. The entity speaking does not matter, the speech itself does.

It is an unfortunate indication of our culture’s declining respect for the First Amendment that a ruling which removes an unnecessary restriction on the ability of citizens to participate in the political process is vilified. Perhaps that would begin to change if we recognized that more speech for Citizen A creates ripple effects increasing political participation throughout the system. He often speaks for thousands or millions of others who agree with him, and those who disagree may still be informed or motivated by his message. We must remember that voters are not robots who treat ads as orders, and in this social media age people can nearly instantly respond, rebut, subvert and lampoon the speech with others if the message is false or unpersuasive. And on Election Day, everyone still gets exactly one vote.

The answer to speech is more speech. The First Amendment should mean that the government does not get to say “you’ve said enough.” With McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court has brought us one big step closer to living up to that ideal.

Luke Wachob is the McWethy Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics.

Go here to see the original:
LUKE WACHOB: A victory for free speech, a win for democracy

Tom Jacksons conservative opinion column is published each Sunday. The Right Stuff blog is updated throughout the week at

Politics, rude, rollicking and messy by nature, is likely to get even more so in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Courts decision this week that eliminates caps on the aggregate amount of money individuals can donate to candidates and political parties. I know, hell, hand basket, etc. Easy there.

The ruling also left in place (over Justice Clarence Thomas energetic dissent) perfectly arbitrary limits on how much candidates for federal office can accept from each donor, $2,600 per race; $5,200 per year. One shackle at a time. Rescuing the First Amendment from imprisonment by a jealous political class egged on by a mass-media monopoly is, like defusing an intricately wired bomb or performing neurosurgery, a delicate task.

Still, the eventual outcome a full unraveling of Washingtons decades-long attack on political speech seems inevitable.

Because one is required to support dissemination of the other, the court long ago equated money with speech. That being the case, it was perfectly logical, as well as philosophically appropriate, for the five justices forming the majority in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission to rule as they did.

Many legal scholars see McCutcheon as a natural extension of the courts 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case, which scuttled a prohibition against corporations spending money on campaigns after an FEC statute blocked distribution of a documentary about Hillary Clinton. Those who thought Citizens United was properly decided also approve of the McCutcheon verdict, and those who didnt like the first really, really dont like the latter.

The way forward for those horrified by McCutcheon is clear: Draft an amendment to the Constitution. Until thats done and ratified, the glorious, re-emerging original stands with its unequivocal command: Congress shall make no law that compromises the peoples rights to publish, speak, assemble and petition. And within those rights, they should be able to bring whatever qualities, talents, know-how or material well-being they have to the task.

The First Amendment safeguards an individuals right to participate in the public debate through political expression and political association, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. When an individual contributes money to a candidate, he exercises both of those rights. A Wall Street Journal editorial elucidates: Restricting how many candidates an individual can support infringes on those rights. Obviously.

Read the original:
The Right Stuff: Freeing the First Amendment, one shackle at a time

On its present course, the Supreme Court will ultimately overrule its 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo, the landmark case upholding campaign finance reform legislation. It cant come too soon, because Buckley expressly ignored the First Amendments injunction that Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech. Instead of free speech, we now have regulated speech that has ensnarled elections in a web of bizarre and opaque rules. Last week, in McCutcheon et al. v. Federal Election Commission, the court began edging away from Buckley by striking down one of its limits on free speech. The details are less important than the courts direction.

Lets be clear about the stakes.

Free speech is not speech you agree with, uttered by someone you admire. Its speech that you find stupid, selfish, dangerous, uninformed or threatening, spoken and sponsored by someone you despise, fear or ridicule. Free speech is unpopular, contentious and sometimes ugly. It reflects a tolerance for differences. If everyone agreed on all things, we wouldnt need it.

In American democracy, this free speech plays two vital roles. The first is well recognized. It is to shape public opinion and to influence elections that, in turn, determine the social climate and steer government. We cherish the marketplace of ideas because (we assume) it allows us, through give and take, to arrive at better ideas and to grope our way toward consensus on hard issues.

Free speechs second function is less understood. It buttresses the political systems legitimacy. It helps losers, in the struggle for public opinion and electoral success, to accept their fates. It helps keep them loyal to the system, even though it has disappointed them. They will accept the outcomes, because they believe theyve had a fair opportunity to express and advance their views. Theres always the next election. Free speech underpins our larger concept of freedom.

Campaign finance reform degrades these core virtues in a quixotic effort to regulate politics. How did this happen? The answer is history. Watergate involved some especially sordid campaign solicitations by President Nixons henchmen. When exposed, these abuses inspired a backlash. We would purge politics of the evils of money. A reform ideology arose that subordinated the First Amendment to these lofty ambitions.

In this ideology, money is not speech. Speech is speech; contributions can be curbed to improve the political system without offending the First Amendment. Doing so is important because the alternative consigns governments vast powers to the rich. Through disproportionate contributions, these moneyed interests win elections and impose their narrow agenda on the nation. This is the ultimate corruption of politics and government.

All this has had an appealing logic for the high-minded. There is only one problem: Each of these basic beliefs is false.

In politics, money is speech. Political speech is a public phenomenon. It aims to affect how people behave. It requires money to hire campaign staff, build a website, buy political spots and the like. Penniless politicians cant easily communicate. Limiting my ability to contribute to candidates and parties restricts my First Amendment rights.

Read the original post:
Robert J. Samuelson: Restoring free speech

The intersection of the First Amendment and campaign finance can seem like a murky crossroads. Good news: Help is here to understand what the Supreme Court is up to at this critical legal juncture.

On Wednesday, a divided high court struck down overall campaign contribution limits in a case called McCutcheon v. FEC, the most important political money ruling since the justices 2010 decision in Citizens United. A quick tally shows that this is the sixth time the court under Chief Justice John Roberts has poked holes in legislation designed to stem the flow of money into the election system.

What is the conservative Roberts majority up to? How far do they intend to go?

The best, most concise explanation Ive heard came from Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. The court narrowed the conception of corruption to an infinitesimally small concept. It needs to be like American Hustle or Abscam handing a suitcase full of money to a member of Congress and getting an explicit agreement to do something, Waldman said on PBS NewsHour. Other than that, Chief Justice Roberts said trying to use your money to get influence with members of Congress is the heart of the First Amendment.

There you have it. Roberts and his four ideological compadres see campaign spending and contributions as a form of expression protected by the First Amendment. One may disagree with that concept, but it is now enshrined in the constitutional law of the land.

The only limiting principle Roberts & Co. seem to perceive to the First Amendments reach in this regard is quid pro quo corruption: when money buys a specific favor from a particular politician. Then cash, checks, and wire transfers cease to be simply political expression and morph into briberythe roguish influence peddling at the heart of the highly entertaining American Hustle and the real-life Abscam sting on which the movie was loosely based.

Congrats to Waldman for providing such a vivid aid for comprehending whats going on in Washington. Condolences to him, the Brennan Center, and other liberal fans of campaign finance restrictions for their losing streak at the Supreme Court, one which will likely continue as long as Chief Justice Roberts commands a majority.

The rest is here:
Understanding the Supreme Court's Campaign Finance Ruling

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