Campaigns/Elections

According to the Times, Pro-Republican Speech Is Not Technically Illegal, but It Should Be

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With Election Day just a couple of weeks away, The New York Times is intensifying its efforts to make "the torrents of money, much of it anonymous, gushing into House and Senate races across the country" into "the dominant story line of this year's midterm elections"—a story line in which Citizens United "remains the touchstone," despite a lack of evidence that the Supreme Court decision has had much to do with those gushing torrents. Sunday's "Week in Review" section included a piece by Jill Abramson in which she likens the current situation to the illegal corporate contributions collected by Richard Nixon's notoriously shady 1972 re-election campaign. "This election year," she notes, "is the first since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows corporations for the first time to finance ads that directly support or oppose political candidates."

Not that Citizens United had anything to do with corporate campaign contributions, which remain illegal. "In this year's midterm elections," Abramson concedes, "there is no talk of satchels of cash from donors. Nor is there any hint of illegal actions reaching Watergate-like proportions. But the fund-raising practices that earned people convictions in Watergate—giving direct corporate money to a campaign and doing so secretly—are back in a different form in 2010."

In other words, businesses are supporting independent organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, which are running ads that criticize Democrats. Not technically illegal, but anathema to Democrats—just like Richard Nixon!

In today's Times, Michael Luo reports that some independent groups, including Crossroads GPS, are using the freedom granted by Citizens United to engage in "express advocacy," explicitly calling for a candidate's election or defeat (usually the latter). Others, including the Chamber of Commerce, are sticking to "issue ads," apparently worried about running afoul of tax rules that say 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organizations and 501(c)(6) trade associations are not supposed to focus mainly on partisan politics. But as Luo notes, the issue ads manage to communicate a pretty clear view about the virtues of particular politicians. Indeed, the whole premise of McCain-Feingold's ban on "electioneering communications," which applied to any message sponsored by a union or corporation that mentioned a federal candidate close to an election, was that issue ads had made a joke out of the ban on express advocacy. If so, we should be no worse off now that the Supreme Court has overturned both bans than we were before McCain-Feingold was enacted in 2002 (taking effect after that year's elections).

Yet Luo, whose story is ominously headlined "Groups Push Legal Limits in Advertising," calls express advocacy "an important new tool afforded to outside interest groups that is reshaping the contours of this year's midterm elections." That thesis seems inconsistent with Luo's claim that issue ads and express advocacy are indistinguishable to "casual observers" (i.e., voters). But if there is an important difference between issue ads and express advocacy—so important that it can reshape the contours of an election—the main argument for the ban on electioneering communications was specious. Is that something that campaign finance reformers (a category that seems to include most Times reporters) are now prepared to admit?

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  1. In today’s Times, Michael Luo reports that some independent groups, including Crossroads GPS, are using the freedom granted by Citizens United to engage in “express advocacy,” explicitly calling for a candidate’s election or defeat (usually the latter).

    “Express advocacy”? As in “voicing your preference”? As in “freely expressing”? As in “I don’t like their speech, off with their heads?”

    But as Luo notes, the issue ads manage to communicate a pretty clear view about the virtues of particular politicians.

    Which tells me that Luo is like that guy who just knew woodpeckers were insulting him in Morse code . . .

    1. Which tells me that Luo is like that guy who just knew woodpeckers were insulting him in Morse code . . .

      They are. Oh, they are.

  2. But it’s okay when WE influence elections!

  3. NYT. Losers.
    And fuck you, NYT and Michael Luo. And elected gummint people, fuck you, too. Oh, and gummint union employees – fuck you with a hockey stick.

    Your anonymous buddy, Almanian.

    1. Please, Nooo

  4. according to Google search suggestions
    Republicans are…
    retarded
    insane
    ignorant
    hypocrites
    and Democrats are…
    socialists
    communists
    parasites
    destroying America

    I wish I could just vote for Google.

    1. Nazis are…
      Cool
      Funny
      Not Socialists
      Hot

      Google uber alles!

  5. …some independent groups, including Crossroads GPS, are using the freedom granted by Citizens United to engage in “express advocacy,” explicitly calling for a candidate’s election or defeat (usually the latter).

    What? Directly speaking your message instead of burying it in between the lines under witless nonsense? That’s not what the 1st Amendment is all about.

  6. Maybe Luo would be satisfied if these groups would over-comply with the law.

  7. Yet Luo, whose story is ominously headlined “Groups Push Legal Limits in Advertising,” calls express advocacy “an important new tool afforded to outside interest groups that is reshaping the contours of this year’s midterm elections.”

    MoveOn! MoveOn! Nothing to see here – MoveOn! MoveOn!

    1. It’s okay when WE do it!

  8. I think that the 5 people who read Mr. Luo’s piece are nodding in agreement.

    1. Well, that’s easy.

  9. Political advocacy journalism is alive and well, and there isn’t a political journalist anywhere who is handing back his paycheck to his corporate benefactor in protest against Citizens United. The “journalists” on CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and all the assorted blogs openly proselytize for political parties and candidates, and their parent corporations willingly accept gobs of money in exchange for running the very ads, some of them “secretly” funded, that they pretend to abhor. The hypocrisy and cynicism required for journalists and pundits to accept cash payment from their employers for their political advocacy (which amounts, in the end, to a form of campaign contribution) while savaging other corporations who do the same but who aren’t part of the journalist priesthood, is breathtaking.

    1. William Randolph Hearst would like a word with you. Presses have always been organs of politicans and the powerful… That’s why allowing anyone to have one was such a radical idea it needed to be explicitly protected in the 1780s. Arguably, the era from 1935-1975 were the least biased, but there are still plenty of examples of bias.

      This is just the same as it ever was.

      1. And yet all the lefty journalists who have gotten their tits in the wringer over Citizens United–most of whom draw their pay from corporations and who daily engage in the sale and dissemination of political rhetoric–would prevent others from doing so.

        1. And yet all the lefty journalists who have gotten their tits in the wringer over Citizens United–most of whom draw their pay from corporations and who daily engage in the sale and dissemination of political rhetoric–would prevent others from doing so.

          Hypocrisy.

          It would be like someone wanting to ban polygamy for other people while supporting a legal exception for himself so he can have his harem.

      2. the era from 1935-1975 were the least biased

        I realize you said “Arguably”, but I’ll argue against it. I think during this period they were just better at convincing most people that they were objective. Which makes it way more evil IMO, than just being an obvious hack.

        1. I guess I don’t disagree, but its still going to be 20-30 years before all of the Walter Duranty style shit gets aired out.

        2. Maybe people still believed in good old fashioned wertfreiheit so they thought things could be objective in the first place, thus allowing them to find objectivity, thus things being remembered that way.

  10. I love the fact that Obama and many of those elected in 06 raised huge sums of money from unions is mysteriously lost on those screaming, “Corporashuns is stealin’ our politchuns!”

  11. See? See?!! We told you Citizens United would be terrible for America! It’s the ONLY reason we’re about to lose big in this upcoming election. The ONLY REASON!!!

  12. This strategy is not going to work even a little bit. Except with those who already plan to vote Democratic even if God comes down and personally pronounces them anathema.

    The millions of “corporate” dollars that end up in the hands of the Democrats get conveniently ignored, too. Ridiculous.

    1. But it is not about working or trying to rebuild after the ass kicking they are going to get. It is about making themselves and their readers feel better. These people are not going to change no matter how hard reality kicks them in the balls.

      A sane person would look at the state of the economy, the events of the last two years and the coming Democratic mass extinction event in the November elections and think “gee maybe we got a few things wrong and maybe our opponents had a point here and there”. But not liberals. The idea that health care reform was a terrible idea or that Keynesian stimulus was the wrong choice or that any of their policies don’t work and are and should be unpopular will never enter their heads. They are too emotionally invested in them. So instead of doing real soul searching and trying to come up with a better plan, they will invent fairy tales about why they lost and why the economy continues to be so bad.

      I will leave their level of sanity to your judgment.

      1. Democratic vocabulary lists soul-searching as a dirty word. To believe otherwise would mean relinquishing the idea that they are most intelligent and insightful Americans. An ignorant and racist populace, that refuses to see the error of its ways, is the only thing standing between Democrats and permanent rule. The simpletons (read voters) are simply incapable of possessing sound judgment and wisdom.

        1. It’s too bad we can’t fire the voters.

      2. “mass extinction” John, what is your estimate of the number of House and Senate seats the GOP will gain?
        I’ll go with 42 House seats and 6 Senate seats (which let’s O’Donnell off the hook as Delaware would not have made the difference.)

        1. The Republicans always do better at the ballot box than the polls. I bet over 60 in the house and enough in the Senate to at least tie.

          And O’Donnell ended the career of Mike Castle. For that alone she deserves the thanks of a grateful nation. If the people of Delaware are so stupid they want the bearded Marxist, that is their problem.

        2. Take a look at how swiftly things have been decaying for House Democrats since the end of August — that trend line keeps dropping:

          an incipient butt-kicking

          1. Wow. 212 seats are now considered “safe Republican”. that is only six away from a majority. I bet the Republicans take at least 2/3rds of the toss ups and pull an upset or two out of the “safe Democrat” seats. And that is assuming things don’t get worse, which I bet they will.

    2. They’re planting the seeds of their post-election strategy. It’s a preview of the next narrative, the so-called “Obama 2.0.” The “strategists” are at it 24/7, 365 days a year. On the Wednesday after the election, Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign begins.

      1. Honestly, we need recall at the federal level. This kind of incompetence needs a take-back option.

        1. The post Cleveland type of incompetence?

          (I might give Coolidge a pass, just narrowly)

  13. You know, I don’t think the American electorate has ever responded all that well to a politician or a party whining and blubbering like a little bitch.

    Which is pretty much what I seem to be getting from the Dems these days. Well, that, or this weird “blame the voters” thing, which I don’t think is going to work for them either.

    1. If this keeps up, Obama’s re-election campaign slogan will be, “Fuck You, America!”

      1. This is the second time in my adult life that I have been so ashamed of being an American.

      2. I think it goes back to the Obama campaign in 2008. The campaign was never about convincing anyone. It was about selling the brand. Obama branded himself as the smart and hip as opposed to the ignorant and backward Republicans. In the short term it was very effective. Voting for Obama was not a way of affirming your belief in any particular policy, it was a way of showing how smart you were and how different and special you were from the idiots who were not voting for Obama.

        Well now the country has turned against the brand. What can Obama do except call them stupid and fearful for doing so. Really Obama is just falling back on the campaign that he knows. He is saying voters who are against him are ignorant and fearful thinking that that will make people want to vote for him because no one wants to be seen as being ignorant. The problem is that when most of the country is against you that kind of branding makes you look like a prick.

        1. His whole campaign was “I’m not George Bush!”

          What a sly jokester he is.

          1. Yeah. That is another problem. He ran against everything Bush did on the war on terror without really thinking about how he would do things differently. Then once in office and faced with real responsibility, kept all of Bush’s policies because he really didn’t have any better ideas. That has really come back to bite him.

          2. In 2012, he’ll run on the idea that he is, in fact, George Bush. And he’ll have mounds of evidence to prove it!

            1. Kinda silly, when all he has to do is rip off the mask and cackle.

              1. True.

              2. Stay the course.

    2. You know, I don’t think the American electorate has ever responded all that well to a politician or a party whining and blubbering like a little bitch.

      Who wants to vote for a whiner?

      1. But whiner is on the way to winner. Take out the ‘hi’ and say it to loud, put in the ‘in’, and we win!

        No charge, Mr President, if you want to use that to change up the car in a ditch lesson.

  14. They’re planting the seeds of their post-election strategy. It’s a preview of the next narrative,

    What narrative? “We’re whiny little bitches. Vote for us.”?

    1. A smart politician’s post election strategy would be to kill the Republicans with kindness. Give them some of what they want but not too much and tell the country how you have heard their voice. It would totally cut the knees out from under the Tea Parties. The Tea Parties are nothing but an angry customer at a restaurant demanding to speak to the manager. If the manager walks out and tells them how right they are and comps their meal, what can the customer say? In contrast if he walks out and tells them “too bad”, things are just going to get worse. If Obama rolled on a few strategically chosen issues, the Tea Party anger would dissipate and he could plausibly portray anyone who was still angry as an extremist.

      But I am starting to think that Obama really is stupid. And that instead of triangulating, he is going to become more petulant over the next two years.

      1. “If the manager walks out and tells them how right they are and comps their meal, what can the customer say? In contrast if he walks out and tells them “too bad”, things are just going to get worse.”

        Or even worse, “How can you not appreciate this wonderful dinner that was served to you? You should be thanking us!”

        The fact that the Obama administration practically drips with stereotypical egghead condescension for the citizenry has not been the most effective means of engaging the public.

      2. What’s the over/under for days after the election that Hillary pulls the ripcord and bails? Will she wait for the new Congress?

        1. Not much trading on it right now:

          http://www.intrade.com/index.j…..nID=697952

  15. Just remember: to a politician (or media opinionist) a ‘loophole’ is simply something that is legal, but that they don’t approve of.

  16. Nation’s Media Rails Against Free Speech

  17. If I do it, it’s because “it’s within my rights”.

    If you do it, it’s because “you’re exploiting a loophole”.

    Glad I could clear that up for you.

  18. This is unconscionable. Only corporations who own printing presses should be able to advocate the election or defeat of a candidate. Corporations like the NYT, as it turns out.

    1. Foreign controlled corporations like the NYT.

  19. It will be fun to watch MSNBC on election night. Chris Mathews will get a tingling in his leg again, but this time it will be because he pissed his pants. Olberman will no doubt treat us to a spittle-flecked “special comment”. Maddow will have her usual haughty revolted look, but you can just tell that somebody’s girlfriend is in for a beating later that night.

    1. MSNBC will likely be running tape ‘crime investigation’ stories that night I bet. Otherwise, I’ll be tuning in to metaphorically taste their tears.

  20. If anyone’s elses speech should be “illegal” then that also applies to the speech of the CORPORATION known as the New York Times when it endorses liberal positions and politicains in it’s editorials.

  21. Not that Citizens United had anything to do with corporate campaign contributions, which remain illegal. […] But the fund-raising practices that earned people convictions in Watergate?giving direct corporate money to a campaign and doing so secretly?are back in a different form in 2010.”

    So… they’re accusing various unnamed groups and politicians of illegal activity and no one is suing or otherwise going after the New York Times?

  22. “is the first since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows corporations for the first time to finance ads that directly support or oppose political candidates.”

    You mean they are going to actually SAY which candidate they support? Thank God, I know I couldn’t figure it out otherwise!

  23. Entertaining watching the new york times corporation complain about corporate speech.

  24. I’ll take worries about foreign and corporate influence seriously when the Carlos Slim-backed New York Times Company is the target, not the speaker.

  25. Personally I know a guy is gay when we meet and i feel the need to check my fly~ 345fgt

  26. Personally I know a guy is gay when we meet and i feel the need to check my fly~12ds

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