A Lakeland, Colorado citizen’s group filed suit Thursday in federal court challenging the constitutionality of a city law regulating the organization’s reporting on candidates in its newsletter.
Attorneys with the Institute for Free Speech who are representing the Lakewood Citizens Watchdog Group said the city’s requirement for the newsletter to identify donors and to include campaign disclaimers in its articles because the cost of publishing and distributing it crossed a $500 threshold violate the First Amendment.
“If the council can redefine reporting and commentary as campaigning, it can punish news outlets that criticize candidates in the months leading up to an election. Congress and the state of Colorado both exempt the media from their campaign finance laws to avoid this precise outcome,” said Institute for Free Speech Senior Attorney and Deputy Vice President for Litigation Owen Yeates said in a release.
The suit asks the court to find the newsletter, The Whole Story, is protected by the constitutional guarantees of free speech and a free press and that the $3,000 fine it was assessed for violating a local ordinance is unconstitutional.
From 2015 to 2018, the Watchdog published The Whole Story without encountering any problems. In 2019 the city council passed an ordinance imposing regulations on any entity spending more than $500 on communications that mentioned a candidate for office within 60 days of a municipal election. As the new rule made no exemption for the media, it became impossible for the group to report on local elections without potentially being forced to register with the city, publish disclaimers on articles, and expose their supporters, its attorneys said.
The Watchdog’s fall 2019 issue, which covered that November’s elections for mayor and city council, was found by a city adjudicator to be guilty of making “unambiguous references to current candidates” in The Whole Story and ordered to pay $3,000 in fines. To cover future local elections, the group would have to file invasive reports about its supporters with city officials and print campaign-style disclaimers in its newsletter.
While Lakewood’s laws pose a threat to any media outlet, the people behind The Watchdog are not surprised they were targeted first. “We report stories other media outlets won’t, and we aren’t afraid to blow the whistle on the city government. The council may not like it, but that’s what the First Amendment is for,” Dan Smith, president of the Lakewood Citizens Watchdog Group said.
“By failing to exempt news gathering and reporting from its campaign finance laws, Lakewood has unconstitutionally infringed on the freedom of the press,” the group’s brief says. “That freedom is essential to a functioning democracy, even more so in the context of elections. Politicians may wish to control who can speak about them, but they can’t regulate The Whole Story.”
The Watchdog is an independent publication mailed to Lakewood residents two to three times per year, with a circulation of approximately 22,000. The case is Lakewood Citizens Watchdog Group v. City of Lakewood.
U.S. newspapers collected millions from Beijing to publish propaganda
The New York Times quietly deleted hundreds of advertorials that the Chinese Communist Party paid to publish on its website.
A Times spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon that the move is a reflection of a decision to stop accepting ads from state-run media. “We made the decision at the beginning of this year to stop accepting branded content ads from state run media, which includes China Daily,” she said.
The Times‘s decision to end its partnership with China Daily is part of a society-wide reckoning about the cozy relationships between the Chinese government and American institutions, from the NBA to Harvard University. While the paper is responsible for some of the most gut-wrenching stories about Chinese government oppression, it has also run more than 200 propaganda articles in the last decade, some of which sugar-coated China’s human rights abuses. One 2019 video ad, for example, promoted Xinjiang tourism by depicting the oppressed Uyghur people as content under Chinese rule.
China Daily, an official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, has been purchasing advertorial spaces in the pages of mainstream U.S. media outlets for the last decade, using the space to disseminate Chinese propaganda to millions of unassuming Americans. In return, U.S. newspapers such as the Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal received millions of dollars.
Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of Congress’s China Task Force who has spearheaded efforts to rein in the distribution of Chinese propaganda, applauded the Times for terminating its relationship with China Daily.
“The New York Times has done excellent, detailed reporting on the ongoing Communist Party atrocities in Xinjiang and around the world,” the congressman said. “That reporting has finally had an effect—at the New York Times—and it no longer supports covering up the CCP’s barbarity. I hope the other outlets follow suit and start putting American values over Communist bribes.”
After the Free Beacon found that China Daily failed to follow federal disclosure requirements about its relationship with U.S. media outlets, Banks and 34 other Congressional Republicans demanded a Justice Department probe into the outlet. Following the demand, China Daily submitted a revised disclosure of its U.S. activities since 2016, revealing previously undisclosed details about its ties with U.S. media organs.
The new disclosure revealed that the Post and the Journal each received more than $100,000 per month to run print versions of Chinese propaganda articles. The Times received $50,000 in 2018 to place the propaganda on its website, presumably a small fraction of the revenue it made selling print space to China Daily. The new disclosures also showed that China Daily paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, and other large regional newspapers to print copies of the China Daily for local distribution.
A Post spokesman told the Free Beacon that the outlet has not published any China Daily advertorials since 2019 but did not clarify whether the Post formally terminated its relationship with the propaganda outlet.
Yaqiu Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, urged other U.S. media outlets to follow the Times‘s example and end their relationships with Chinese state media. “If you care about the truth, then don’t participate in the Chinese government’s machinery of propaganda, censorship and repression,” she said.
Congress is wrong to take itself out of the game.
by Peter Roff • US News & World Report
If, as CQ.com reported Thursday, GOP congressional leaders are suddenly going soft on the issue of the Obama administration’s intention to hand off the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, then someone has gone soft in the head.
The pending transfer, something the administration last year said it would like to see concluded by the end of this year, involves not just the critical operations of the Internet’s technical infrastructure but the values that govern its operations down to the level of the individual user. There is too much at stake to rush the transfer through.
For some time now, the plan has been to turn the responsibility for the Internet over to the world. American ingenuity developed it, American capital resources built it up and out, and American generosity made it possible for every country on Earth to take part in the revolution it spawned, even those countries that have sworn vengeance, jihad, destruction and similar ill-wishes on this, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Continue reading
The media has by and large given President Obama’s failed Afghanistan policy a pass—just as it has his larger foreign policy missteps.
by Walter Russell Mead • The American Interest
Once again, be very glad we don’t have a Republican president right now. If we did, we would be treated to a merciless media pounding, night-and-day, on the series of strategic failures, mistakes and false starts that have characterized America’s war strategy in Afghanistan since 2009. We’d be getting constant reminders of how the President, who repeatedly said that this was a just war that America had to win, and who told us that we should vote for him because he wouldn’t let anything distract him from the vital task of winning said war, hasn’t managed to win it, or even end it, after six long years. Continue reading
by Ed Morrissey • HotAir.com
Readers can thank Judicial Watch for prying the latest embarrassing documents out of the Obama administration, as part of its effort to uncover the full story behind Operation Fast & Furious. Last night’s document dump deals with a related matter — the attempt to keep the media at bay and spin the news to the best advantage of Barack Obama and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. The DoJ provided another set of documents, totaling more than 42,000 pages, under court order to JW on November 18th, and they make it clear that the White House took it upon themselves to pressure CBS into silencing Sharyl Attkisson:
One of the documents provides smoking gun proof that the Obama White House and the Eric Holder Justice Department colluded to get CBS News to block reporter Sharyl Attkisson. Attkisson was one of the few mainstream media reporters who paid any attention to the deadly gun-running scandal.
In an email dated October 4, 2011, Attorney General Holder’s top press aide, Tracy Schmaler, called Attkisson “out of control.” Schmaler told White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz that he intended to call CBS news anchor Bob Schieffer to get the network to stop Attkisson. Continue reading
by Kyle Smith • New York Post
When the longtime CBS reporter asked for details about reinforcements sent to the Benghazi compound during the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack, White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor replied, “I give up, Sharyl . . . I’ll work with more reasonable folks that follow up, I guess.”
Another White House flack, Eric Schultz, didn’t like being pressed for answers about the Fast and Furious scandal in which American agents directed guns into the arms of Mexican drug lords. “Goddammit, Sharyl!” he screamed at her. “The Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable. You’re the only one who’s not reasonable!”
Two of her former bosses, CBS Evening News executive producers Jim Murphy and Rick Kaplan, called her a “pit bull.”
That was when Sharyl was being nice.
Now that she’s no longer on the CBS payroll, this pit bull is off the leash and tearing flesh off the behinds of senior media and government officials. In her new memoir/exposé “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington” (Harper), Attkisson unloads on her colleagues in big-time TV news for their cowardice and cheerleading for the Obama administration while unmasking the corruption, misdirection and outright lying of today’s Washington political machine. Continue reading
by Paul Farhi • Washington Post
White House journalists are creating an alternative system for distributing their media “pool” reports in response to the Obama administration’s involvement in approving and disapproving certain content in official reports.
A small group of reporters initiated an online forum this month in which they shared “pool” information among themselves, without White House involvement. The forum was set up by the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which negotiates with the White House’s press staff over access for journalists.
Pool reports — those summaries of the president’s public appearances that go to the news media at large and are used in countless news stories — are filed by a rotating group of journalists whose work is intended to be free of content changes by the White House.
The pool journalists, however, must submit their reports to the White House press office, which distributes them via e-mail to hundreds of news organizations and others. The White House maintains the list of recipients.
Reporters have complained that the Obama White House exploits its role as distributor to demand changes in pool reports and that the press office has delayed or refused to distribute some reports until they are amended to officials’ satisfaction. Continue reading
by Peter Roff • Washington Times
That we can see the demonstrations at all has a lot to do with the Internet, itself a tool that global pro-democracy movements have successfully used to make the entire world sit up and take notice of what they are trying to accomplish. Authoritarian leaders like China’s Xi Jinping therefore have an unsurprisingly cautious attitude toward the World Wide Web; they understand its open nature and the free flow of words and video pose a very real and constant threat to their power.
That openness is a direct result of the influence of core American values on Internet governance. The Internet was invented by the United States government, which has turned the management of many of its essential functions over to a California-based nonprofit corporation created for that specific purpose called ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Up to now the U.S. connection has insured the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution shapes the way it operates. Continue reading
by Horace Cooper • Politix
Last spring the White House announced that it would go forward with an effort to relinquish all American oversight over the operation of the World Wide Web. At the time many critics within the tech community warned that this precipitous decision would have harmful effects – here at home and abroad.
The administration claims that this process is the natural evolution of America’s role in setting up and overseeing the web. But critics predicted that the risks of ending American management of the web’s operation would result in a dramatic change in the operation and accessibility of the Internet.
As the date for this transfer gets closer it is becoming increasingly clear that the critics were right to be alarmed.
ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which by an act of Congress has the primary responsibility for ensuring web stability and uniformity is turning out to be the perhaps the greatest threat to the stability and uniformity of the world wide web. Continue reading
In unprecedented criticism of the White House, 38 journalism groups have assailed the president’s team for censoring media coverage, limiting access to top officials and overall “politically-driven suppression of the news.”
In a letter to President Obama, the 38, led by the Society of Professional Journalists, said efforts by government officials to stifle or block coverage has grown for years and reached a high-point under his administration despite Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to provide transparency. Continue reading
Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) repeatedly pressed the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the tax-exempt status of specific conservative nonprofit organizations in letters to then-IRS commissioner Doug Shulman and director Lois Lerner in 2012.
Levin said he was concerned nonprofit organizations were abusing their tax-exempt status and engaging in partisan politics and requested information from the IRS on 12 organizations.
“Organizations are using Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4) to gain tax exempt status while engaging in partisan political campaigns,” wrote Levin in one letter on July 27, 2012. “Making the problem worse is that the IRS knows there is a problem because of the public nature of the activity but has failed to address it.” Continue reading
Two months ago, a petition bearing more than 110,000 signatures was delivered to The Post, demanding a ban on any article questioning global warming. The petition arrived the day before publication of my column, which consisted of precisely that heresy.
The column ran as usual. But I was gratified by the show of intolerance because it perfectly illustrated my argument that the left is entering a new phase of ideological agitation — no longer trying to win the debate but stopping debate altogether, banishing from public discourse any and all opposition.
The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian. It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences — from social ostracism to vocational defenestration — upon those who refuse to be silenced. Continue reading
The recent Supreme Court decision over-ruling some Federal Election Commission restrictions on political campaign contributions has provoked angry reactions on the left. That is what often happens whenever the High Court rules that the First Amendment means what it says — free speech for everybody.
When the Supreme Court declared in 2010 that both unions and corporations had a right to buy political ads, that was considered outrageous by the left. President Obama called the decision “devastating” and said it “will open the floodgates for special interests.”
Those unfamiliar with political rhetoric may not know that “special interests” mean people who support your opponents. One’s own organized supporters — such as labor unions supporting President Obama — are never called “special interests.” Continue reading