In the News

Cato Institute: Trump and Free Political Speech (Podcast)

By Caleb Brown

The incoming Trump administration raises fears of further regulation of political speech. David Keating of the Center for Competitive Politics discusses the risks and opportunities.


In Defense of Protests

By Scott Blackburn

First, the connection between paid protestors and George Soros is bunk. Yes, George Soros – a wealthy liberal – gives money to broadly liberal organizations, who in turn distribute that money to other liberal nonprofits with a narrower focus, some of whom use that money as a call to action to citizens who agree with their positions – in this case that Trump should not be president. Some of these organizations may even hire professionals to help organize these protests (though even the evidence for this is lacking)…

More to the point, what if George Soros was directly paying protestors? Does that make their protest less meaningful? Protesting, like all forms of political speech costs money. Travel to the protest site costs money, signs cost money, time spent protesting is time not working – that loss of time costs money. That a person who agrees with your political message wants to subsidize that activity is a good thing. The subsidizing of diverse political voices makes public debate possible. We should not disregard political activity because it received funding from a wealthy individual – all political activity receives funding.

Free Speech

Washington Post: Can businesses refuse to serve – or employ – Trump supporters?

By Eugene Volokh

KOB-TV (Albuquerque) reports on a New Mexico business that refuses to deal with Trump supporters; the owner of the business, an Internet marketing company, posted an item saying:

… 1st In SEO will no longer do business with any person that is a registered Republican or supports Donald Trump. 1st In SEO will also not do business with business interests that support either the Republican Party or Donald Trump… If you are a Republican, voted for Donald Trump or support Donald Trump, in any manner, you are not welcome at 1st In SEO and we ask you to leave our firm…

Is a private business’s refusing to serve people based on their political affiliation legal? How about firing employees for their politics (something that might be implied by “you are not welcome at 1st In SEO and we ask you to leave our firm” and “break ties with any person”)? It turns out that this depends on the jurisdiction, and on whether the business is discriminating against clients or employees… In New Mexico, for instance, discriminating against clients on this basis is legal – but firing employees, or threatening to fire them, based on their politics is a felony.

Political Parties

Huffington Post: Sorry, But Pelosi’s Fundraising Won’t Save The Democrats

By Krystal Ball

The Republican Party has gotten a great return on the ad dollars they’ve spent vilifying Pelosi. To many, she is now the living embodiment of everything wrong with Washington…

So why stick with a leader who is an active obstacle to winning for Democratic hopefuls in swing or red-tinged districts? Well, the argument I keep hearing is that we should stick with Pelosi because she’s a strong fundraiser. I’ve got news folks, if money was enough to win these races we’d be back in the majority and sitting pretty reading news about Hillary Clinton’s cabinet picks. In fact, we just lost 7 of the 10 most expensive congressional races in the country…

We are supposed to be the party that’s appalled by big money’s influence on our politics. So explain to me again how it’s such a great thing that Pelosi is in super tight with the donor class.

The Hill: Sanders: GOP government a ‘threat to American democracy’

By Jordain Carney

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday said the GOP’s control over the U.S. government is a “threat to American democracy.”

“For many Republican leaders, ‘democracy’ means billionaires buying elections and poor and working people being disenfranchised,” Sanders said.

“Too many Americans have fought and died to defend American democracy. The Republican anti-democratic vision is not a future we will allow to happen.”

In describing the threat, Sanders said Republicans will want to end all limits on campaign finance. He argued that GOP leaders want “billionaires to be able to contribute directly to the candidate and, in essence, make the candidate a full-fledged employee of wealthy contributors.”

The Independent senator and Democrats have repeatedly pushed legislation and called on the Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United, a 2010 Supreme Court decision that struck down limits on corporations’ campaign expenditures.

The Media

Politico: AP issues guidelines for using the term ‘alt-right’

By Brent Griffiths

In a memo to reporters writing about the “alt-right,” John Daniszewski, vice president for Standards at the Associated Press, cautioned journalists to be specific and deliberate when writing about a label that many say is just a euphemism for white nationalism.

“Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience,” Daniszewski wrote. “In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.”

Daniszewski said that when writing about extreme groups, journalists should be as specific as possible.

“We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them,” he wrote.

Trump Administration

Huffington Post: Trump’s White House Counsel Is Like Kryptonite To Campaign Finance Reform

By Marty Kaplan

Getting big money out of politics is a prerequisite for fixing almost everything else in our dysfunctional system: That’s my song, and in the primaries, Trump and Sanders sang it the loudest.

I wonder how many Trump voters who were attracted by his drain-the-swamp rhetoric noticed whom he hired last week for White House counsel. Trump could not have announced a more in-your-face betrayal of his promise to clean up Washington than his pick of Donald McGahn. McGahn is anti-matter to Sanders’ matter. He’s like kryptonite to campaign finance reform…

It was McGahn’s F.E.C. that ensured that the Court’s rulings for Citizens United and against the McCain-Feingold reforms would gut the regulation of money in politics, thereby paving the way for super PACs and for bogus “social welfare” nonprofits like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS.

More Soft Money Hard Law: Presidents and Conflicts of Interest

By Bob Bauer

The questions about the President-Elect’s business interests have so far revolved around those benefits he might enjoy from foreign holdings and transactions, and still more specifically those provided in part by foreign governments…

But the attention paid to foreign source business income has left mostly to one side the larger question of the leeway presidents have to operate outside the conflict of interest rules all senior executive branch officials (other than the Vice President) have to follow. For example, presidents and vice presidents are not subject to gift restrictions. 5 C.F.R. §2635.204(j). They may accept any and all gifts from any and all sources (except, on the Emoluments theory, from foreign governments)…

Most presidents, most of the time, accept such gifts but only in trust for the United States. But the rule gives them the choice. And that choice in turn is governed by little other than a concern for appearances or, if the gift is proffered by a favor-seeker, by the wish to avoid liability for bribery. The only requirement is public disclosure: presidents must report once a year the gifts they are free to receive.

Washington Post: Democrats plan resolution to demand Trump divest from his business, but chances of passage are slim

By Karoun Demirjian

Senate Democrats plan to file legislation next week insisting that President-elect Donald Trump sell off his business stakes and place his assets in a blind trust – or they will treat all his business dealings as potential violations of the Constitution…

It is effectively a warning shot from Democrats, who could use claims of constitutional impropriety to build a case against Trump, potentially even to the point of attempting impeachment proceedings.

But Democrats will need the cooperation of Republicans to put such a measure on the floor – and it is unlikely that the GOP will be inclined to schedule such a vote during the few weeks remaining in the jam-packed “lame duck” session.

Candidates and Campaigns

Fortune: Jill Stein’s Election Recount Fund Raises Close to $7 Million

By Associated Press

Jill Stein is on track to raise twice as much for an election recount effort than she did for her own failed Green Party presidential bid…

Stein won no states and wouldn’t directly or immediately benefit from a recount-nor would she likely be able to topple Trump. Even Clinton’s attorney Marc Elias wrote there’s “no actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology.”

But Stein’s effort could help her in other ways.

By continuing to raise money, she is building up a larger donor list that she can later turn to if she runs again. She also can try to influence policy by urging those donors to call lawmakers or contribute to other politicians. Her campaign says 137,000 people have contributed to the recount.

A bigger supporter list can command bigger fees if Stein chooses to lease it out to other campaigns.

MediaPost: Report Reveals Google’s Support For Hillary Clinton

By Laurie Sullivan

Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a 501(c) project that uses research to expose misconduct in public life, released a report Monday detailing Google’s support for Hillary Clinton.

It noted how executives at the company hoped to extend its influence into the next administration.

The review shows at least 57 Google or related employees were affiliated with Clinton in her presidential campaign, in her State Department, at her family foundation…

Although it’s too early to tell, mostly because the administration is less liberal, the report provides insight into ways a “corporation can influence our democracy beyond simple financial donations.”

One way points to the list of former Google executives working for the Clinton campaign, such as Stephanie Hannon, Clinton’s chief technology officer; and Osi Imeokparia, Google’s chief product officer.

Bloomberg: Trump Embraces Black Friday With Deals on Shirts, Ornaments

By Nick Turner and Bill Allison

“The Trump campaign’s Black Friday sale is a first in my experience with politics,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at campaign-finance reform group Common Cause. Still, it’s not unusual for a president-elect to keep pushing for cash after securing office, he said. “Candidates that win can and do successfully continue fundraising.”

The Trump camp created a stir earlier this week after it started selling a $149 Christmas ornament branded with the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”…

One thing Trump couldn’t do: profit from the hats, T-shirts, yard signs and other items the campaign has already purchased. “That merchandise is a campaign asset and can’t be converted to personal use,” Ryan said.

Hillary Clinton’s merchandise store, meanwhile, is still operating — but it had a more muted tone on Black Friday. “Last call: Stock up with free shipping” the home page reads.

The States

MassLive: New Massachusetts task force will review state ethics laws

By Shira Schoenberg

The 11-member task force will review the legal and regulatory framework governing the conduct of local and state employees. This will include reviewing the state’s conflict of interest law, financial disclosure laws, lobbying laws, the laws governing campaign finance and the regulations governing the state ethics commission.

The task force will be made up of appointees by the House, Senate, governor and attorney general, as well as experts in the fields of ethics, public integrity and campaign finance.

A report will be due by Dec. 23. The report will recommend changes that should be made to existing ethics rules and laws.

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