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Minnesota Democracy Rundown 10/20/2017

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Minnesota Democracy Rundown is a recurring curation by LWV Minnesota’s Civic Engagement Manager, Nick Harper. It summarizes recent news reports, research studies, and current events articles that discuss important democracy issues that affect Minnesota.

Campaign Finance: Dueling Op-Eds on Citizens United

The Wall Street Journal printed an op-ed by Floyd Abrams, an attorney in the private practice of First Amendment law, arguing that the Citizens United decision has not tainted politics. In response, The Huffington Post printed a rebuttal op-ed by Fred Wertheimer, attorney and President of Democracy 21, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to making democracy work for all Americans. Wertheimer counters Abrams's talking points.

Public Disclosure: The Honest Ads Act

Senators Klobuchar (D-MN), Warner (D-VA), and McCain (R-AZ) are authoring a bipartisan bill to treat internet ad vendors like Facebook, Twitter, and Google similarly to radio and television ads for the purposes of campaign finance disclosure and disclaimer laws. Leading attorney for Democratic Super PACs and Hillary Clinton’s campaign Marc Elias faces criticism for helping Facebook and Google lobby the Federal Election Commission to prevent disclosure rules from being applied to their services. McCain states that he backs the bill “for the same reason [he has] been for transparency in campaign finance reform for the last 25 years.”

UPDATE: LWV US signed onto a letter with 26 other reform organizations and experts urging other Senators to support the bill.

Foreign Influence on Elections

Under federal law, foreign nationals may not contribute financially to political campaigns or fund political advertisements. But growing evidence demonstrates that Russia created a disinformation campaign to influence the 2016 elections outcome. One popular and divisive Twitter account that portrayed itself as a state party’s official account, was run by a Russia “troll farm.” Russians were encouraged to buy thousands of Facebook ads after studying the Netflix drama series House of Cards. And Russians paid US activists to fund socially divisive protests.