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Big Picture

HR 1 Debate Opens With Predictable Partisanship

As the Judiciary Committee held the first hearing on House Democrats' sweeping political process overhaul today, the predictably partisan passions on the panel were overshadowed by efforts off Capitol Hill to kill the bill.

"The general arc of our nation's politics over the last generation has made it easy to be cynical — easy to say that America has, in that time, increasingly tended towards an oligarchy, in which more and more of the political power is concentrated in fewer and fewer wealthy and powerful hands," the new Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler of New York, declared at the outset. And the bill, dubbed HR 1, "helps level the playing field to give ordinary Americans the voice that they deserve in how our country is governed."

But the new ranking Republican, Doug Collins of Georgia, offered a passionate defense of most aspects of the voting, campaign finance, lobbying, government ethics and political mapmaking systems the legislation would alter. And he and others in the GOP chastised the proposals as infringements on free political speech and the primacy of states in setting the rules for elections

The bill's major provisions include requiring donor disclosures by super PACs, boosting lobbying registration requirements, requiring states to create non-partisan redistricting commissions and making voter registration automatic nationwide.

Meanwhile, members of the National Association of Business' political action committee convened Monday to plan their strategies for combating the bill, Vox reported.

At the same time, 154 conservative leaders banded together this week to deride the bill as "the ultimate fantasy of the left," while the libertarian group FreedomWorks is circulating a letter to its members describing the measure as "dangerous." The core of both groups' arguments is that the legislation would throttle free speech rights and increase the odds of Democratic dominance of federal government in the coming decade.

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Open Government
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FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub

The struggle is real: FEC stalled on regulations for online political ads

The Federal Election Commission has once again punted on establishing rules for identifying who is sponsoring online political advertisements. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive meeting in which the topic fell to the wayside without a clear path forward.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub revived debate on the topic in June when she introduced a proposal on how to regulate online political ads. In her proposal, she said the growing threat of misinformation meant that requiring transparency for political ads was "a small but necessary step."

Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen and Commissioner Caroline Hunter put forth their own proposal soon after Weintraub, but the commissioners have failed to find any middle ground. At Thursday's meeting, a decision on the agenda item was pushed off to a later date.

Weintraub's proposal says the funding source should be clearly visible on the face of the ad, with some allowance for abbreviations. But Petersen and Hunter want to allow more flexibility for tiny ads that cannot accommodate these disclaimers due to space.

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Open Government
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California's Supreme Court is expediting President Trump's challenge to a new state law that would require him to release five years of tax returns in order to get on the state ballot for the 2020 election.

California court expedites Trump challenge to new tax returns requirement

The California Supreme Court is fast-tracking its review of a challenge to a new law that would require President Trump to make public his tax returns in order to get on the state's ballot for the 2020 election.

A lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the law was filed August 6 by the California Republican Party against Secretary of State Alex Padilla. It claims the law violates California's constitution.

Two other challenges, one filed by Trump's personal lawyers, are pending in federal court.

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