Democrats losing elections and argument against Citizens United

Jon Ossoff loses George House race despite far outspending his Republican opponent. (Getty Images)

Not only are Democrats wrong on principle in their unified effort to legislatively repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling, they are wrong in their rationale.

The 5-4 Citizens opinion stated it is unconstitutional on First Amendment free speech grounds to limit spending on political speech by corporations and unions.

At one point Sen. Harry Reid, in arguing for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens, stated:

But the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced. Let’s keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy and put a stop to the hostile takeover of our democratic system by a couple of billionaire oil barons. It is time that we revive our constituents’ faith in the electoral system, and let them know that their voices are being heard.

His heir in the Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto, has taken up the cudgel, saying in a press release in support of another attempt February to amend the constitution:

The U.S. Constitution puts democratic power in the hands of the American people — not corporations or private companies. Since the Citizens United decision, big corporations have gained unprecedented influence over elections and our country’s political process. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation; it’s critical that we end unlimited corporate contributions if we are going to have a democratic process and government that will truly work for all Americans.

The Democrats in the Nevada Legislature waded in with a resolution urging Congress to amend the First Amendment and overturn Citizens. It passed without a single Republican vote.

This week their bleating about elections being bought and paid for by the wealthy was proven dead wrong, again.

Not only was President Trump outspent by loser Hillary Clinton by two-to-one, but now in a race for a Georgia House seat the Democratic candidate outspent his Republican opponent by seven-to-one and still lost.

And talk about special interest money. The Democrat Jon Ossoff, between March 29 and May 31, reported receiving 7,218 donations from California, but only 808 donations from Georgia. Overall, he got $456,296.03 from Californians, compared to $228,474.44 from Georgians.

The Democrats are not only losing elections, but are losing the argument about the effectiveness of the influence of outside money. Being able to spend your own money on political speech is tantamount to free speech, but not to convincing speech.

In Citizens, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:

The (First) Amendment is written in terms of “speech,” not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals — and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is “speech” covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise.

 

Rosen said to be planning to run against Heller

Jacky Rosen (AP pix via Politico)

Half the search engine alerts about Nevada this morning seemed to contain a link to some story about first-term Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen of Las Vegas, who has a year and a half to go in her first term, planning to soon announce a bid to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller.

Politico first broke the news at 7:44 p.m. Monday, followed a couple of hours later by The Nevada Independent and a half dozen others, except the Las Vegas newspaper. Most cited unnamed sources, though a couple led with the National Republican Congressional Committee reacting to the news.

Politico reported that a poll released Monday showed Heller getting just 39 percent of the vote while a generic Democrat polled 46 percent among Nevada voters.

“Heller is widely considered the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election in 2018 and is the only GOP senator this cycle who represents a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Politico reported.

NVIndy reported:

The first-term congresswoman has spoken with former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and his successor, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, about getting into the race and is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s top choice to run against the senior senator, the source said. Heller is considered the most vulnerable Republican up for reelection in 2018 and is the Democrats’ best pickup opportunity in the midterm.

The website also said she has the backing of the Culinary union, which has a strong voter turnout organization. In the 2016 presidential election Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump by 2 points, largely due to the unions getting members to the polls.

CNN quoted an NRSC spokesman as saying, “With today’s news, Jacky Rosen confirmed to Nevadans the only reason she’s in elected office is to serve her own ambitions. Rosen’s radical liberal stances might please her puppet-master Harry Reid, but they will leave Nevadans worse off.”

Election season is never ending.

In trademark case Supreme Court upholds principle that government may not limit free speech

The Slants

The Supreme Court has struck a blow for free speech in a case that might on its face seem rather petty, but maintains the principle that government must butt out of judging what is a permissible level of offensiveness.

The case involved the Patent and Trademark Office refusing to grant a trademark to an Asian-American rock band that wanted to call themselves “The Slants.” The agency cited a section of the law that denies trademarks for names that are “immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute …”

According to the opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the band wanted to use the ethnic slur as its name to “reclaim” the term and drain it of its denigrating force.

But the government argued that issuing a trademark was tantamount to the government engaging in disparaging speech, citing a previous case in which the court held that the state of Texas was not required to issue car license plates commemorating Confederate Veterans.

Alito held that license plates are government speech but a trademark is not. He wrote that the federal law did not create trademarks but merely was instituted to protect trademarks from being usurped:

The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied the application based on a provision of federal law prohibiting the registration of trademarks that may “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” … We now hold that this provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.

“The principle underlying trademark protection is that distinctive marks — words, names, symbols, and the like — can help distinguish a particular artisan’s goods from those of others.” … A trademark “designate[s] the goods as the product of a particular trader” and “protect[s] his good will against the sale of another’s product as his.” … It helps consumers identify goods and services that they wish to purchase, as well as those they want to avoid.

“[F]ederal law does not create trademarks.” … Trademarks and their precursors have ancient origins, and trademarks were protected at common law and in equity at the time of the founding of our country. … For most of the 19th century, trademark protection was the province of the States. … Eventually, Congress stepped in to provide a degree of national uniformity, passing the first federal legislation protecting trademarks in 1870. (Citations omitted.)

Justice Anthony Kennedy strongly concurred and wrote:

At its most basic, the test for viewpoint discrimination is whether — within the relevant subject category — the government has singled out a subset of messages for disfavor based on the views expressed. … (“[T]he government violates the First Amendment when it denies access to a speaker solely to suppress the point of view he espouses on an otherwise includible subject”). In the instant case, the disparagement clause the Government now seeks to implement and enforce identifies the relevant subject as “persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.” Within that category, an applicant may register a positive or benign mark but not a derogatory one. The law thus reflects the Government’s disapproval of a subset of messages it finds offensive. This is the essence of viewpoint discrimination. …

A law that can be directed against speech found offen- sive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.

As The New York Times points out, this bodes well for the Washington Redskins football team, which had been granted trademark status for many years but was denied in 2014 because of the disparagement clause.

But more importantly it underpins the principle that government may not approve or disapprove of the content of a message for whatever excuse.

 

A little Father’s Day tip o’ the dusty straw hat

Bull Mitch

My father was full of sage advice, none of which I ever followed. He was also full of witticisms, which are all I can really remember.

Things like:

“Great minds travel in the same plane, but fools just think alike.”

“You pays your money and takes your chances … but mostly you just pays your money.”

“Some people get filthy rich in the oil fields, we just get filthy.”

“I love hard work. I can sit and watch it for hours.”

“There were two Mitchells killed in the Alamo, so you know they were surrounded.”

He was a decorated hero of World War II but said he refused to wear the Purple Heart so he wouldn’t have to explain exactly where the wound was.

When he and his war buddies got to together they never talked about the fighting, but only the antics, like climbing on the hood of a truck and stealing eggs out of the back of a slow moving truck climbing a hill.

Though one of his friends once let slip that Dad, a bulldozer operator, actually did that scene from a John Wayne movie in which the bulldozer operator raised the blade to deflect bullets while rescuing pinned down soldiers.

Because he was a bulldozer operator they called him Bull Mitch.

After he died in an oil field accident while I was in college, I began to ask my co-workers to call me Mitch. I think they sometimes called me Bull Mitch behind my back, but for an entirely different reason. There is a little of our fathers in each of us.

Happy Father’s Day.

First posted in 2012.

Editorial: Heller sponsoring bills to address doctor shortage

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller has joined with several other U.S. senators to introduce bills to address the looming shortage of doctors in the coming decade, particularly in rural areas.

According to a study released in March by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the United States is facing a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030, because the number of new physicians is not keeping pace with the demands of a growing and aging population. Though the population is expected to grow by 12 percent by 2030, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to increase by 55 percent and the number of people aged 75 and older should grow by 73 percent.

One of the bills being co-sponsored by Heller is the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act. There is a similarly named bill pending in the House.

In a press release Heller said this bill would increase the number of Medicare-supported hospital residency positions by 15,000 to address the coming shortage of doctors and to try to keep new graduates from Nevada’s medical schools in Nevada and rural Nevada in particular.

“While the number of medical school graduates from Nevada’s universities continues to rise, the state does not currently have enough residency positions to keep pace with those graduates in Nevada,” said Heller. “The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act increases the number of hospital residency positions available to address the doctor shortage, particularly in our rural communities, and improve the quality of care patients receive.”

According to AAMC data from 2014, Nevada ranked 47th among the states in the ratio of doctors to population. Nevada had 197.4 doctors per 100,000 population compared to 265.5 nationally.

According to a news account in the Las Vegas newspaper this past November, the number of doctors per capita in rural Nevada actually declined by nearly 10 percent between 2004 and 2014.

“Those problems are aggravated in rural areas that have always struggled to recruit and retain or keep those types of professionals in their facilities and their communities,” John Packham, director of health policy research in the state’s rural health office, was quoted as saying.

The other bill being pushed by Heller is dubbed the Advancing Medical Resident Training in Community Hospitals Act. The is intended to make it easier for hospitals to start full-time residency programs by fixing a flaw in current law that prevents hospitals that have previously accepted part-time medical residents from establishing their own full-time, Medicare-supported residency programs.

“The Advancing Medical Resident Training in Community Hospitals Act aims to address the physician shortage in Nevada’s rural communities by giving community hospitals more flexibility to rotate residents,” Heller sad. “By making it easier for Nevada’s hospitals to train the next generation of physicians, our bill will increase access to care for Nevadans living in these communities.”

Though there will be a price tag on these bills, the added health care availability is well worth it.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Nevadans welcome review of sage grouse land use plans

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who had filed a lawsuit attempting to overturn the Interior Department’s 2015 land use plan to protect greater sage grouse, is praising the recent decision by the Trump administration to review those plans.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed an order establishing an internal review team to evaluate federal and state sage grouse plans and report back to him in 60 days. He specifically called on the review team to consider local economic growth and job creation, as well as protection of the birds.

“While the federal government has a responsibility under the Endangered Species Act to responsibly manage wildlife, destroying local communities and levying onerous regulations on the public lands that they rely on is no way to be a good neighbor,” said Zinke after issuing the order. “State agencies are at the forefront of efforts to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations, and we need to make sure they are being heard on this issue. As we move forward with implementation of our strategy for sage-grouse conservation, we want to make sure that we do so first and foremost in consultation with state and local governments, and in a manner that allows both wildlife and local economies to thrive. There are a lot of innovative ideas out there. I don’t want to take anything off the table when we talk about a plan.”

Greater sage grouse (BLM pix)

Though Interior decided to not list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, its land use plan essentially barred mineral exploration on 3 million acres in Nevada and locked out most economic activity on 10 million acres in a dozen Western states.

Laxalt was quoted in a press release as saying, “My office remains dedicated to protecting the interests of Nevada and ensuring that federal agencies take our unique needs and concerns into account. We look forward to working with Secretary Zinke to develop a plan that protects the greater sage grouse in ways that recognize Nevada’s expertise and commitment to this important issue, and that also preserves and expands Nevada jobs in sectors like mining and ranching. An intelligent sage grouse plan can do both successfully.”

In October 2015 Laxalt filed suit on behalf of the state and was joined by nine Nevada counties, several mining companies and a ranch. The suit repeatedly stated that the various federal land agencies ignored state and local input on the land use plan.

Nevada’s senior Sen. Dean Heller also welcomed the Zinke review.

“I am pleased that Secretary Zinke is initiating a review of the previous administration’s sage-grouse land use plans and committing to work with those who know how to best protect threatened species: states and localities,”
Heller stated. “As I have consistently maintained, allowing states like Nevada to have a seat at the table as an active participant in the discussion surrounding conservation efforts is central to the viability of the sage-grouse. Moving forward, I am hopeful that the Department of the Interior will partner with Governor Sandoval and the Nevada Sagebrush Ecosystem Council to begin targeting the real threats to sage-grouse and their habitat: invasive species, wildfire, and wild horse overpopulation.”

News accounts quoted Zinke as saying the Republican governors of Nevada, Utah and Idaho all prefer that the sage grouse plans give them more flexibility and rely less on habitat preservation “and more on numbers” of birds in a given state.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has complained in the past about Nevada’s input being ignored. In one letter he stated, “I believe the proposed land withdrawal will not be able to show any measurable results except for the demise of the mineral exploration industry in Nevada. The urgency to implement the withdrawal proposal prior to conducting the proper analysis needed to evaluate the efficacy of the action and socio-economic impact of the action is unclear,” adding that the agencies involved have “provided no science or analysis at any level to support the rationale” for excluding mining operations.

Interior’s draft environmental impact statement estimated its grouse restrictions would reduce economic output in Nevada each year by $373.5 million, cost $11.3 million in lost state and local tax revenue and reduce employment by 739 jobs every year for the next 20 years.

And it all may be for naught. According to a 2015 Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies survey, the population of greater sage grouse had grown by nearly two-thirds in the previous two years — before the implementation of strict land use plans.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

I remember this song, I think

I was listening to my iPod on random play and a song came up that I seem to remember hearing a few times before, but it suddenly seemed to have added meaning just now. I think.

It was Tom Rush doing a piece for a Judy Collins “Friends” album from a couple of years ago. You remember Judy Collins, right? The 78-year-old singer who is still touring. I’ve seen her several times over the years and she remains one of my all time favorite performers. I think. A friend had we convinced she took the name of Collins after Fort Collins, where we both lived, because John Denver had already taken the Colorado capital city. But she was born Judith Marjorie “Judy” Collins I learned later. I think.

Rush did the song at a Collins concert in 2003 in San Diego when his hair was still redish:

He also did it in 2016 when his hair was a bit whiter and the song even more believable:

Oh well. Rush is now 76. I think.

p.s. After writing this I discovered that I had cremated my dinner on the grill, because I forgot about it.