Posts Tagged ‘campaign regulation’

Free speech roundup

  • Good news for Donald Trump! Sticking with speech-protective opinion rule, New York judge dismisses libel suit by PR consultant against him based on his derogatory tweets [ABA Journal]
  • “Jawboning” at FCC, under which media companies bend to commissioners’ wishes on content and hiring rather than risk their disapproval, should be recognized as danger to both First Amendment and rule of law [Brent Skorup and Christopher Koopman, Regulation via Cato Institute Tumblr summary]
  • The family of Ahmed Mohamed, of schoolboy clock fame, may have to pay $200,000 or more to targets of frivolous libel suits [Popehat]
  • Harsh epithets, calls for investigation and accusations of whitewashing, rhetorical comparisons to infamous persons could all lead to media liability if D.C. Court of Appeals reasoning in Michael Mann case isn’t overturned [Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry, Cato, earlier]
  • NYC, San Francisco criminalize listing property on AirBnB except on authorized conditions. A question of commercial speech [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
  • Can Colorado regulate groups that run ads with the message “call your lawmaker to support this bill”? [Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry]

December 14 roundup

“Law firm ‘bonuses’ tied to political donations”

After initially resisting, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has agreed to return nearly $130,000 in donations she and her PAC received from the Boston-based Thornton Law Firm, known for asbestos plaintiff’s litigation. An investigation found the law firm paid $1.4 million in bonuses in patterns strongly suggesting they were being used to cover “straw donations” nominally from partners [co-published Boston Globe/Open Secrets story; New York Post]

From 2010 through 2014, Strouss and Bradley along with founding partner Michael Thornton and his wife donated nearly $1.6 million to Democratic party fundraising committees and a parade of politicians from Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada to Hawaii gubernatorial candidate David Ige to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Over the same span, the lawyers received $1.4 million listed as “bonuses” in Thornton Law Firm records; more than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days.

That payback system, which involved other partners as well, helped make Thornton the 11th-ranked law firm nationally for political contributions in 2014, according to data analyzed by the Center, even though the firm is not among the 100 biggest in Massachusetts, much less the U.S.

Capitol Hill recipients of Thornton money include many figures who have played a role in blocking asbestos litigation reform, including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).

Election roundup

  • Does money rule politics? As of late October Trump campaign had been badly outspent by Clinton, with Super PAC money favoring her by more than 3-1 [Bloomberg]
  • Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997), on whether private lawsuits can proceed against a President while in office, “potentially quite important again.” [Orin Kerr]
  • Related, from Ken White at Popehat a few days back: stop painting the civil suits against Donald Trump as worse than they are;
  • “Democrats, please: Do not respond by doubling down on identity politics. That is poison in a multi-ethnic democracy.” [Jonathan Haidt]
  • Maricopa County, Ariz. sheriff Joe Arpaio, a frequent target in this space, loses re-election bid [NPR]
  • Successful ballot measure will make Maine first state to adopt “ranked-choice” preferential voting [Ian Farrow, Tyler Cowen]
  • More: What Donald Trump’s election will mean for the Supreme Court [Josh Blackman, Ilya Shapiro]

Wisconsin “John Doe” sputters toward close

“On the third anniversary of predawn armed raids on Wisconsin homes in the name of politics, the U.S. Supreme Court has driven the final nail in the coffin of Wisconsin’s politically driven John Doe investigation. On [Oct. 3], the high court rejected a petition by Democratic prosecutors looking to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling last year declaring the campaign finance investigation unconstitutional.” But is it truly the final nail? M.D. Kittle reports as part of Wisconsin Watchdog’s series, “Wisconsin’s Secret War.”

Rauch: Bring back the political Establishment

When roving bandits appear on the scene, you begin to miss the old stationary bandits: Jonathan Rauch wants to bring back the political Establishment of days past, by revisiting primary and campaign-finance laws that were meant to curb the role of party regulars. [The Atlantic]

Bonus, Terry Teachout: “In a totally polarized political environment, persuasion is no longer possible: we believe what we believe, and nothing matters but class and power. We are well on the way … the gap that separates the two Americas has grown so deep and wide that I find it increasingly difficult to imagine their caring to function as a single nation for very much longer. …The main obstacle that stands in the way of the soft disunion of America is that Red and Blue America are not geographically disjunct, as were the North and South in the Civil War.”

Free speech roundup

  • Why Josh Blackman signed Wednesday’s New York Times ad protesting the AGs’ investigation and subpoenas on climate advocacy;
  • Proposed revision of ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct barring discrimination by lawyers could have major anti-speech implications [Eugene Volokh]
  • “Game Studio’s Plan To Deal With Critic Of Games: Sue Him To Hell” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
  • The Citizens United case was correctly decided, says Michael Kinsley. And he’s right. [Vanity Fair]
  • Fifth Circuit ruling prescribes attorney fee award after defeat of frivolous trademark litigation under Lanham Act [Popehat]
  • So what’s a good way to support teaching evolution without climbing in bed with folks who put free speech in scare quotes? [National Center for Science Education on Twitter: “Tobacco Science, Climate Denial, and ‘Free Speech'”]

A hold-up of SEC nominees

You mean getting to a floor vote so that sensitive vacancies can be filled isn’t these senators’ top priority after all? Sen. Chuck Schumer and allies are holding up two presidential nominations to the Securities and Exchange Commission, those of Democrat Lisa Fairfax and Republican Hester Peirce, demanding that the nominees commit to supporting a scheme to force shareholder-held companies to disclose their political involvements, the better for adversaries to pressure them or retaliate. It flies in the face of the idea that the appropriate frame of mind for commissioners approaching the rulemaking process is to keep an open mind rather than promise to vote one way or the other [Stephen Bainbridge, Broc Romanek/Corporate Counsel, Marc Hodak] “The SEC is now down to just three members, two less than its full complement, after two left the agency late last year. If the SEC remains with only three members for a prolonged period, it could be difficult for Chairman Mary Jo White to advance her agenda in what is likely her final year at the markets regulator.” [Andrew Ackerman, WSJ] More: WSJ letters via Prof. Bainbridge; Washington Post editorial.

Free speech roundup

  • Unbowed by terror: interview with heroic Danish editor Flemming Rose [Simon Cottee/The Atlantic]
  • “If The Left Had Its Way On Citizens United, ‘Funny Or Die’ Would Not Be Allowed To Ridicule Trump” [Luke Wachob, Independent Journal]
  • Justice Department considers push for law criminalizing support of domestic terror groups [Reuters] Per federally funded police-support center, possible indicators of “extremist and disaffected individuals” include display of “Don’t Tread on Me” flag [Jesse Walker, Reason]
  • U.S. BigLaw firm Squire Patton Boggs represents Venezuela as it tries to shut down U.S.-published DolarToday for publishing data about inflation [Jim Wyss/Miami Herald, Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica, earlier here, etc.]
  • When scandal broke about IRS targeting of opposing groups, even President Obama talked about accountability. After press attention waned came refusal to press charges, whitewash, denial [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today]
  • Bad, bad bar: behind recent rise in blasphemy prosecutions in Pakistan is a lawyers’ group [Reuters]