Editorial: Groups should not be forced to reveal donors

The uberliberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Nevada, recently struck another blow against free speech, saying the state of California may force non-profits to reveal their donors.

According to The Wall Street Journal, in 2016 a federal judge ruled that the Americans for Prosperity Foundation did not have to give its donor list to the California attorney general’s office. 

Judge Manuel Real agreed with the foundation’s lawyers that the state had no legitimate law-enforcement interest in obtaining the names. He also said that the attorney general’s failure to keep donor names confidential subjected donors to a risk of harassment and retaliation.

The 9th Circuit panel shrugged this off and found the attorney general had a “strong interest” in obtaining donor names in order to investigate potential fraud.

This is significant for Nevada because there is a law on the books here that says any group that engages in “express advocacy” in elections must register with the Secretary of State and report donors and expenditures. 

In 2013 a Carson City judge fined a Virginia-based group called Alliance for America’s Future (AAF) more than $100,000 for airing television commercials praising Brian Sandoval’s conservatism during the gubernatorial campaign of 2010. Though the group argued the law was unconstitutional under the First Amendment, the judge found in the penumbra of the Constitution a whole new right.

He wrote, “No amount of civil penalties can redress the injury to Nevada voters caused by refusal to timely provide them with the information to which they are entitled, thus there is no adequate remedy at law.” 

He ruled the voters are entitled to the names of donors who sponsored the message, which would have been a surprise to James Madison, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Paine, all of whom wrote anonymously. 

In 2014 AAF reached a settlement with Secretary of State Ross Miller before the case reached the state Supreme Court. The group paid a $40,000 fine, registered as a political action committee and filed contribution and expenditure reports. 

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC let stand the requirement under McCain-Feingold that donors be revealed, Justice Clarence Thomas made a compelling argument that it is clearly an abridgment of free speech  rights to force people to surrender their right to anonymously express their views about elections, candidates and issues with donations to like-minded groups.

Thomas’ dissent concluded that such laws had spawned a cottage industry that uses forcibly disclosed donor information to intimidate, retaliate, threaten and boycott individuals and businesses with whom they disagree. 

Thomas wrote, “The disclosure, disclaimer, and reporting requirements in (the law) are also unconstitutional. … Congress may not abridge the ‘right to anonymous speech’ based on the ‘simple interest in providing voters with additional relevant information …’”

In the recent California case one of the groups siding with the foundation was the NAACP. In 1958 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Alabama could not force the NAACP to reveal its donors, citing the potential for intimidation and violence against donors. 

But the 9th Circuit panel dismissed this concern. Though the panel admitted, “The Foundation’s evidence undeniably shows that some individuals publicly associated with the Foundation have been subjected to threats, harassment or economic reprisals,” it shrugged this off by concluding, “Such harassment, however, is not a foregone conclusion.” 

What if the threats had been to the judiciary?

Americans for Prosperity has said it will seek a rehearing before the full 9th Circuit, and appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if that fails. By all means appeal, and we urge the Nevada attorney general to file a friend of the court brief in support.

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.

9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco (Getty Images via WSJ)

Two contrasting editorials about what is at stake in the November election

The Las Vegas Sun has an editorial that is nothing more than lengthy excerpts from a recent Obama speech under the headline: “Don’t sit on the sidelines for the most consequential election of your life.”

Obama is quoted as saying:

This November’s election is more important than any I can remember in my lifetime. And I know politicians say that all the time, but this time it really is different. This time the stakes are higher. …

Politicians try to keep us angry, keep us cynical, and they appeal to our tribal instincts and appeal to fear. They try to pit one group against another. And they tell us order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those people who don’t look like us or sound like us or pray like we do. …

On Nov. 6, we have a chance to restore some sanity to our politics. We can tip the balance of power back to the American people. Because you are the only check on bad policy, you’re the only real check on abuses of power. It’s you and your vote.

Hollow and pompous rhetoric without any specifics.

On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal has an editorial under the headline, “The Election Tax Divide,” that says precisely what is at stake in November.

Republicans are pushing a bill that would make the tax cuts for individuals and families permanent. Currently, obscure rules about deficit scoring force the expiration of individual tax cuts at the end of 2025.

Democrats want to repeal the tax cuts outright. They especially are foaming at the mouth about the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction that means fewer IRS deductions for rich Democrats in high-tax states like California and New York.

Come Election Day, WSJ implores: “If nothing else, the House proposal makes clear that Republicans want to cut taxes while Democrats want to raise them. Voters who want to continue the economy’s robust growth should keep that in mind.”

 

 

Taxpayers just collateral damage in trade war

Bok cartoon from three days ago seems prescient.

Since farmers may be hurt by China slapping retaliatory tariffs on American farm goods, President Trump is now talking about extending $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers, The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning.

WSJ explains:

China, in response to a series of U.S. tariffs, has levied duties on $34 billion of U.S. products, covering 545 categories, ranging from soybeans, pork, chicken and seafood to sport-utility vehicles and electric vehicles.

The farm goods were chosen to hit U.S. states that supported Mr. Trump just months ahead of the midterm elections, according to people with knowledge of Beijing’s plan.

Planned relief for U.S. farmers follows a series of tweets from the president earlier Tuesday in which he hardened his stance on trade ahead of a visit this week from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Trump tweeted this morning:

So what happens when the feds print money? Inflation, of course, which eats into the value to your paycheck and savings.

Aren’t tariffs great?

Robert Samuelson wrote recently in The Washington Post that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 may not have caused the Great Depression, but it certainly did not help end it.

“One crucial lesson of Smoot-Hawley is to leave trade policy alone — that is, don’t resort to protectionism — in any economic crisis that doesn’t automatically involve trade. Protectionism may make things worse and, possibly, much worse,” the columnist writes.

Protectionism discourages trade by raising the price of traded goods, Samuelson explains, thus exports and imports suffer and could lead to defaults by debtors, of which there are far too many right now, which could trigger a panic.

Those who do not remember history …

This is what leaders of nations talk like?

Good grief, Charlie Brown.

Looks like we are back to schoolyard taunts passing for international negotiations.

According to WSJ, Iran’s semiofficial state news agency recently quoted Iranian President Rouhani — reacting to the U.S.’s toughing stances against the regime since pulling out of Obama’s Iranian nuke deal — as saying, “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

This, of course, prompted Twitterer-in-Chief Trump to reply:

A former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps also took to Twitter and warned Trump that 50,000 U.S. troops are in range of Iranian weapons.

The rhetoric doesn’t get much hotter — or infantile — than this.

 

 

It’s easy to be green, just wish it so and ignore the facts

If you thought the “green movement” was more about self-righteous politics than clear-headed science, here are two  tales that prove the point.

In Arizona a petition is being circulated in an effort get on the ballot an initiative called the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona Amendment. This would require 50 percent of the electricity generated in the state to come from renewable sources by 2030.

The petition states:

The Amendment defines renewable energy sources to include solar, wind, small-scale hydropower, and other sources that are replaced rapidly by a natural, ongoing process (excluding nuclear or fossil fuel). Distributed renewable energy sources, like rooftop solar, must comprise at least 10% of utilities’ annual retail sales of electricity by 2030.

If the measure passes it would necessitate the closure the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix, which currently provides about 35 percent of the state’s electricity, even though it produces no carbon emissions.

If the state were to achieve the goal of 50 percent of its power coming from mostly solar and wind, both of which are intermittent there would be no room on the grid for Palo Verde’s power, because reactors can’t be quickly turned off and on — it takes weeks of preparation.

“We would have to shut Palo Verde down during the day every day,” one plant official was quoted as saying. “But that’s not how nuclear plants really work. Nuclear plants can’t just be shut down and then started up again.”

Since battery technology is not yet available, the most likely source of rapid start-up generation would be natural gas, which produces carbon emissions, especially when frequently idling.

Adding wind and solar to the power grid could increase the carbon dioxide output.

Retired electrical engineer Kent Hawkins wrote in February 2010 that “the introduction of wind power into an electricity system increases the fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions beyond levels that would have occurred using efficient gas plants alone as the providers of electricity equivalent to the firmed wind.”

This is because every kilowatt-hour of intermittent electricity introduced into the grid must be backed up by a reliable fossil-fuel generator. When the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine, the demand for electricity remains.

Starting and stopping gas-fired generators is inefficient, comparable to operating a car in stop and go traffic instead of steady and efficient on the open highway. Just like the car, the fuel consumption can double, along with the carbon emissions, negating any presumed carbon savings by using solar or wind.

Meanwhile, in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced plans to build $6 billion worth of offshore wind turbines while shutting down the nuclear-powered Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y.

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, explains in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that the wind turbines will produce only 60 percent as much power as the nuclear plant being closed.

How will this gap be covered? You guessed it, natural gas.

“The irony here is colossal. Mr. Cuomo, who banned hydraulic fracturing despite the economic boon it has created in neighboring Pennsylvania, and who has repeatedly blocked construction of pipelines, is making New York even more dependent on natural gas, which will increase its carbon emissions,” Bryce writes. “At the same time, he has mandated offshore wind projects that will force New Yorkers to pay more for their electricity, even though the state already has some of the nation’s highest electricity prices.”

Being green is a state of mind … or should we say mindlessness?

Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y., in 2017. (AP pix via WSJ)

Who likes the Iranian nuke deal? Anyone?

Former Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly has been meeting with an Iranian official in an effort to save the nuclear deal he helped put together.

President Trump has a May 12 deadline for renewing the deal or bailing out of it.

Kerry’s efforts come on the heels of Israel revealing it has a half ton of documents showing that Iran continues to work toward developing a nuclear arsenal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is not accusing Iran of violating the deal, but is pointing out the deal is so weak Iran doesn’t need to break it, while it continues its nuke development. “I say that a deal that enables Iran to keep and hide all its nuclear weapons know-how, is a horrible deal,” he said.

The deal was supposed to be that Iran would curb its bid for nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting sanctions that were hurting the nation’s economy.

Surprise! Surprise! Today The Wall Street Journal is reporting there is labor strife all over Iran due to lousy economic conditions. Teachers, steelworkers, hospital staff and others have walked off the job.

The paper says the workers are angry at their employers and the government, because the nuclear deal has failed to deliver. There is high inflation and unemployment and the country’s currency is dropping in value.

“Where in the world is a worker whose wage is four times below the poverty line forced by the police to work?” WSJ quotes an Iranian activist as saying. “This is a crime. This is slavery.”

Remember those pallets of cash delivered by the Obama administration? Apparently a lot of that was spent on supporting fighting in Syria and supporting Hezbollah.

Kerry appears to be fighting for a deal nobody likes, even the Iranians.

Imagine what will happen if Trump backs out of the deal.

An Iranian protester in December. (Getty Images)

What is the value of an education?

An education is valuable. We all know that. Statistics tell us those with higher levels of education earn more over a lifetime.

But why?

In an interview with book author and college professor Bryan Caplan, Wall Street Journal editorial features editor James Taranto elicits an apt analogy. Caplan’s book is titled “The Case Against Education.”

In answer to the question as to why employers are willing to pay more for the more highly — or all too often really just longer — educated, Caplan explains the answer is “signaling.”

Caplan’s analogy:

“There’s two ways to raise the value of a diamond. One of them is, you get an expert gemsmith to cut the diamond perfectly, to make it a wonderful diamond.” That adds value by making the stone objectively better — like human capital in the education context. The other way: “You get a guy with an eyepiece to look at it and go, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, this is great — it’s wonderful, flawless.’ Then he puts a little sticker on it saying ‘triple-A diamond.’” That’s signaling. The jewel is the same, but it’s certified.

So, a higher level of education signals to the employer that the job candidate is capable of spending long hours doing stultifying menial tasks and conforming to expectations.

That’s why we have $1.49 trillion in outstanding student loans, not because anyone is really leaning any job-related skills.