National: Social media ready to cash in on 2016 election | The Hill

Tech firms are courting campaigns ahead of the 2016 presidential election, where budgets for digital advertising are expected to reach new highs. The election will be tweeted, googled, snapped, liked on Facebook, and shared on numerous other social media platforms. And Silicon Valley is hoping to turn that engagement into big profits. While billions will be spent on political advertising over the next year, television remains the prime mover and budgets for digital ads trail traditional media. But even by one recent estimate from Borrell Associates, 9.5 percent of political media budgets could go towards digital media — a total of $1 billion.

Delaware: Delaware wins appeal, can enforce law on election advertising | Reuters

A federal appeals court said Delaware may enforce a state election law requiring advocacy groups that run political advertising to reveal their donors. Thursday’s 3-0 decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia reversed a lower court ruling that had favored Delaware Strong Families, a conservative-leaning group that publishes “voter guides” ahead of elections. The group objected to a 2013 state law requiring third-party advertisers to reveal their donors’ identities if they spend more than $500 in an election cycle on ads that refer to specific candidates, even if they do not recommend how to vote.

National: Citizens United is making local TV rich. Here’s why. | Slate

Remember the outrage over Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission? The 2010 Supreme Court decision allowed corporations and other entities to expend unlimited funds on electoral influence, inspiring feverish protests and calls for constitutional reform. Jeremiads about the devolution of political discourse from an active citizenry engaged in public debate to a Machiavellian nightmare of corporate manipulation proliferated. Coupled with the growing awareness of economic inequality, Citizens United helped incite the Occupy movement and has already become a byword for corruption in the American political process. Like plenty of Americans, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg detests the ruling. “If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United,” she told Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic. “I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.” While it’s easy to locate those who defend Citizens United on constitutional grounds, finding support for the decision’s real-world effects on public discourse, debate, and democratic participation is a tougher task. But there’s one party that ought to be cheering the ruling’s positive impact on its livelihood: local TV.

United Kingdom: With campaign spending limited, UK politicians vie to be ‘liked’ and ‘retweeted’ | New York Times

There is no political advertising on television or radio in Britain. Fund-raising and spending are strictly limited. Tight elections can turn on a relative handful of votes in a small number of competitive parliamentary constituencies. So as Britain’s political parties head into a tight, unpredictable election on Thursday, they are even more reliant than their American counterparts on social media as a way to mobilize supporters for a last push and disseminate their messages directly to voters. Social media makes up for “that small difference of being that tiny bit marginally better than the other party,” said Anthony Wells, director of political and social opinion polling at YouGov, a prominent polling company here. Digital technology also helps parties winnow undecided voters from the rest of the electorate, he said.

National: Election officials say mobile political ads must come with disclaimers | Washington Post

The Federal Election Commission is deadlocked on whether to exempt mobile ads from the disclaimers that appear by law on political messaging — throwing a wrench in the plans of a left-leaning communications firm and pitting its strategists against the FEC’s Democratic appointees. The firm in question is Revolution Messaging, whose clients include, Organizing for America and various Democratic committees. Last fall, Revolution asked the FEC for permission to eliminate disclaimers from its digital banner ads, arguing that the small screens on mobile devices made it impractical to include the legalese. Republican officials sided with Revolution, saying that a disclaimer was unnecessary; Democratic commissioners disagreed.

Canada: New election law to crack down on robocalls, voter fraud | The Record

Canada’s election law is getting a major overhaul, aimed at making it tougher to play on the dirty-tricks side of the political game. A crackdown on automated “robocalls” and voter fraud are among the measures contained in the 242-page bill unveiled Tuesday by Democratic Reform minister Pierre Poilievre. And in what’s being widely viewed as a rebuke to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, the Conservatives have taken away his oversight of investigations into election-law abuse. The commissioner of elections, who conducts those probes, will now report to Canada’s director of public prosecutions, who has an arm’s-length relationship with government and political entities. “What we are doing is making sure that office has full independence,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the Commons on Tuesday. Poilievre said the change gives Canada a new breed of political-crimes investigator — one with “sharper teeth, a longer reach and a freer hand.”

Montana: Judge hits ‘dark money’ group with big penalty | Independent Record

A political group that has gained notoriety for challenging campaign restrictions on corporations was fined $260,000 on Tuesday after a judge said it failed to disclose spending. The civil penalty levied against American Tradition Partnership, which is organized as a nonprofit corporation, demonstrated that new campaign freedoms extended to corporations don’t make them immune to state disclosure laws. District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock said in his order that the group has shown “complete disregard” for the laws of Montana, its courts, and the tradition of free and open elections. The case involves attack ads mailed by the group in 2008 denouncing candidates. Officials say it did not report the spending as political activity to the state commissioner of political practices. The group, which was headquartered in Montana then Colorado and the Washington, D.C., area, has challenged state campaign finance laws and targeted moderate Republican legislators and Democrats with harsh campaign ads.

National: McCutcheon Super PAC Already Busts Limits | Roll Call

An Alabama businessman whose challenge to campaign contribution limits goes before the Supreme Court on Tuesday has already spent well beyond the current limit through an unrestricted super PAC, public records show. Shaun McCutcheon, a conservative activist who runs an Alabama electrical engineering firm, argues in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that the $123,200 limit on how much he may give to candidates, political action committees and parties per election cycle stifles his free speech and does nothing to curb corruption. But in the 2012 elections, McCutcheon spent close to three times that limit — about $300,000 — supporting his favorite candidates through his personal PAC. McCutcheon set up the Conservative Action Fund PAC in 2010 as “a good way to do political advertising” and “a way to raise money from other donors,” he said. McCutcheon’s ability to spend hundreds of thousands beyond the aggregate contribution limit, even under the current rules, illustrates how wide-open the campaign finance system has already become. The question now is whether the high court will deregulate elections even further.

Italy: Rivals battle it out on and off-air | BBC News

From a media baron’s on-air antics to a comedian who shuns television, the campaign strategies employed by contenders in Italy’s election have been poles apart, reports the BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome. Silvio Berlusconi is in a live television studio, half out of his seat and bellowing furiously at the audience about the Communist past of his left wing opponents. It is just one moment in a typical media performance by Italy’s former Prime Minister. He had gone into what was for him a lion’s den; the Servizio Pubblico political talk show It airs on a channel beyond the control of Mr Berlusconi’s Mediaset television empire. Some of his sharpest critics were lying in wait for him.And over more than two hours they launched attacks aimed at exposing Mr Berlusconi’s many failings. It was a chance to almost put him on trial, and the bookmakers were suggesting he might storm off the set. But he stayed in his seat, and rose to the occasion. He twisted and turned, counter-attacked and blustered and ranted and joked and charmed.

California: Lawmakers try to curb anonymous political donations in California | Los Angeles Times

State lawmakers are moving to curb anonymous political donations in California after a national election in which nonprofit groups secretly poured hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns. Legislators have proposed greater disclosure by donors, higher fines for violations and new powers for officials to investigate suspicious contributions to certain groups. Other measures would boost disclosure requirements for political advertising and campaign websites.

National: Ban on political ads on public TV struck down | Reuters

A divided U.S. appeals court struck down a federal ban on political advertising on public TV and radio stations, a decision that could open the public airwaves to a heavy dose of campaign ads leading up to the November elections. By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the Federal Communications Commission violated the First Amendment’s free speech clause by blocking public broadcasters from running political and public issue ads. The court said the ban was too broad, and that lifting it would not threaten to undermine the educational nature of public broadcast stations. It upheld a ban on ads for goods and services on behalf of for-profit companies. “Public issue and political speech in particular is at the very core of the First Amendment’s protection,” Judge Carlos Bea wrote in the main opinion. “Public issue and political advertisements pose no threat of ‘commercialization’,” he continued. “Such advertisements do not encourage viewers to buy commercial goods and services. A ban on such advertising therefore cannot be narrowly tailored to serve the interest of preventing the ‘commercialization’ of broadcasting.”

National: I.R.S. Scrutiny of Political Groups Stirs Harassment Claim |

The Internal Revenue Service is caught in an election-year struggle between Democratic lawmakers pressing for a crackdown on nonprofit political groups and conservative organizations accusing the tax agency of conducting a politically charged witch hunt. In recent weeks, the I.R.S. has sent dozens of detailed questionnaires to Tea Party organizations applying for nonprofit tax status, demanding to know their political leanings and activities. The agency plans this year to press existing nonprofits like American Crossroads, on the Republican side, and Priorities USA, on the Democratic side, to justify their tax-protected status as “social welfare” organizations, a status that many tax professionals believe is being badly abused. Senate Democrats are readying a fresh legislative push to demand that such groups disclose their donors and attach disclaimers to their political advertising identifying the advertisement’s primary funders. Tax experts are also raising concerns that corporate donors to “super PACs” may be deducting their contributions as business expenses.

National: Study: SuperPACs Behind Nearly Half Of 2012 Ads | NPR

A new analysis shows that in the deluge of TV ads in the early voting states for the Republican presidential primaries, nearly half of the ads are coming not from the candidates but from superPACs — the new breed of political committees that raise unregulated money. Political scientists at Wesleyan University in Connecticut found that so far, there have been about the same number of GOP primary ads as there were four years ago. An analysis by the Wesleyan Media Group shows that while the overall number of ads in the 2012 Republican presidential primary is similar to four years ago, the source of the ads has changed. What’s different — and different in a big way — is the role of outside money groups, mostly superPACs, says Erika Franklin Fowler, a director of the Wesleyan Media Project. “They went from about 3 percent of total ad airings in the 2008 race to almost half, about 44 percent, in 2012,” she says.

Editorials: Where Did They Get the Money For That? |

Over the past few weeks, voters in early primary and caucus states have been deluged by political advertising. Some of the ads are pure hagiography, while others are slashing. Disclaimers tell viewers which candidate or group with a soothing name is responsible in each case. But even as they choose from among the Republican presidential candidates, voters haven’t been able to find out who is really behind the spots – who has been putting up the big money it takes to make and air these messages.

Tunisia: Electoral commission chief says: ‘We are ready’ |

I’ve just had a meeting with Kamel Jendoubi, the head of Tunisia’s electoral commission, at his office at the Lafayette district of Tunis. Jendoubi’s commission is responsible for organising Sunday’s election. “We are ready,” he says.

The UN has not been invited in to monitor the elections – “because,” he says, “it is an issue of sovereignty”. There are instead to be 10,167 observers – 9,590 Tunisians, 577 from abroad including 525 from the EU and the US, and 52 from the Arab and Muslim world.

Jendoubi says it was the Supreme Court for the Protection of the Revolution which issued the controversial law forbidding the foreign press to interview candidates. “The law is a remnant of the old regime.”

New Zealand: Public spending on election ads comes under spotlight again in New Zealand | NZ Herald News

A decision by the Electoral Commission to refer a parliamentary-funded postcard from Labour to the police is expected to raise questions again about the extent of election advertising that will be funded by taxpayers in the run-up to the election. The postcard in question opposed asset sales and was funded by Labour’s parliamentary budget.

The Electoral Commission believes that because the postcard was election advertising as defined by the Electoral Act it needed a promoter statement on it, saying who authorised it. Labour’s statements on the issue suggests it thinks that simply because it was funded by Parliament, means it cannot be election advertising.

“Labour had taken the view that the flyer was not an election advertisement under the Act, in part because it had received prior authorisation from the Parliamentary Service for its publication,” campaign spokesman Grant Robertson said.