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Texas AG fights big tech, says or else ‘we may never have our free speech back’

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By Jenny Goldsberry

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared on the Sara Carter show Friday to talk about his state’s fight with big tech. According to him, Texas is winning.

A federal judge in California recently threw out Twitter’s case against Paxton. The social media platform attempted to take Paxton to court when he began investigating former President Trump’s ban. But, the judge sided with Paxton, and allowed his investigation to continue.

“We have every right to ask those questions,” Paxton said of the investigation.

Paxton said he was lucky in this case, where others aren’t so lucky.

Big tech companies have every resource at their disposal, often able to employ many more lawyers than their competitors and they also have many Congressional members on their side because of campaign contributions, Carter pointed out. The Texas lawyer is now suing Google for its anticompetitive practices and wants to sue more big tech monopolies like it, but he knows it takes significant resources to stand up to them.

Carter asked the attorney general how these companies have gotten away with cornering the market for so long. Paxton suggested that it was a huge oversight from the beginning.

“I think the reason they do it is because we let them,” Paxton said. “Part of that is we’ve been lax in overseeing them.” He also mentioned Congress gave them special protections. Among them is Section 230, which protects social media companies from being liable for the opinions that are shared on their platforms. So, when fake news is circulated on their sites, they don’t face the consequences for it. But Paxton sees how this can lead to election interference in the future. In fact, it already has.

“I think that if we don’t quickly address this issue at the state level federal level in every possible way through litigations, there are such large monopolies,” Paxton said. “If we do not address this now, we may never have our free speech back.”

You can follow Jenny Goldsberry on Twitter @jennyjournalism.

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WSJ: Corporate Dirty Pool in Washington’s Senate Race

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The Wall Street Journal’s,  Kimberly A. Strassel wrote a piece identifying how the Democrats are so worried about Washington Senator Patty Murray’s re-election “that Seattle’s corporate heavyweights are playing dirty pool on her behalf.”

Murray, a leftwing progressive, has faced little competition while in office; until now. Tiffany Smiley, a Republican nurse and entrepreneur “is pummeling Ms. Murray from every direction and laying out her own detailed reform agenda” adds the WSJ.

A RealClearPolitics average has Ms. Murray winning by 8 points. Another poll has Smiley within 2 points. Regardless, It’s close enough that “Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently transferred $500,000 of his own campaign cash to Ms. Murray’s campaign.”

Money from Schumer isn’t the only liberal panic dough. “Starbucks, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Seahawks—are actively attempting to sabotage the Smiley campaign, albeit in a distinctly underhanded fashion” writes the WSJ. “Their targets are two effective Smiley campaign ads.”

At the center of the fight are two of Smiley’s ads: “Game Day” and “Cup of Coffee.”

Strassel reports:

In “Game Day” the Republican is in a kitchen preparing to watch a football game, hitting Ms. Murray and Democrats for the spiraling cost of food. In “Cup of Coffee,” she stands in front of a derelict building. Barely visible at the top, and seen backward, is the store’s faded Starbucks sign. Ms. Smiley hits Ms. Murray for rising crime, while the ad flashes two Seattle Times headlines, one of which reads: “Starbucks to Close 5 Seattle Stores Over Safety Concerns.”

“Game Day” hit the airwaves Sept 1. Five days later, according to documents I obtained, the Smiley campaign received a terse email from the Seahawks claiming a trademark violation. The ad briefly shows Ms. Smiley’s husband, Scotty—a retired U.S. Army Ranger who was blinded by shrapnel in Iraq—expressing alarm that “even beer” prices are rising. You only see his shoulders above a tall couch—and if you get a magnifying glass you might make out a letter or two from the word “Seahawks.” The letter insisted the Smiley campaign “immediately cease” its “unauthorized commercial use.” Nothing like your local sports franchise dumping cease-and-desist orders on wounded veterans.

“Cup of Coffee” went live on Sept. 20. The next day, the Seattle Times sent an email to the “Jane Smiley” campaign—apparently without running it past its fact-checking desk—accusing it of “unauthorized use of The Seattle Times logo and two headlines” in violation of the paper’s “copyright and trademark.” It demanded the campaign remove any references to the paper not only in its own ad, but in an NBC News article about the ad’s launch.

Two days later, Starbucks sent a certified letter saying the campaign was appropriating its intellectual property, and complaining it might “create an unfounded association in the minds of consumers between Starbucks and your campaign.” It insisted the campaign either pull the ad or alter it to strip both the (barely visible, backward) sign and the Seattle Times headline referencing Starbucks.

One such letter may be the product of an overzealous lawyer, but three in a row looks like more than a coincidence. One might even wonder if some Murray staffer was putting bugs in Seattle business leaders’ ears. And while corporate political-action committees routinely play politics by making donations, it’s something else for individual companies to go to bat for a candidate via behind-the-scenes threats based on tenuous legal claims. These letters were bound to cost the Smiley campaign money and headaches and might have pushed it off the airwaves.

The campaign didn’t roll over. It made a painless accommodation to the “Game Day” ad, blurring the jersey colors to obscure anything distinct. In a legal letter sent Thursday to Starbucks, the campaign rebutted the company’s infringement claims, running through political speech protections and noting that no reasonable person would ever think a factual ad about shuttered Starbucks stores amounted to a coffee-chain endorsement. It suggested Starbucks focus on its own problems, like its recent union woes.

The Seattle Times also received a letter refuting its claims, but it got something in addition. The Smiley campaign on Thursday filed a Federal Election Commission complaint, charging the paper with providing the Murray campaign a prohibited in-kind contribution. It turns out that Ms. Murray has also used a Seattle Times headline in her ads. Her “First 2016 Ad” sports the newspaper’s logo under the headline: “Patty Murray’s and Paul Ryan’s Teamwork Is a Model for Congress.” It seems the Times has a different legal standard for candidates it endorses.

As the FEC complaint notes, the Smiley campaign would have to spend an estimated $5,000 to remove and update the ad—“costs that Patty Murray does not have to accrue.” It cites FEC regulations that provide “if a corporation makes its resources available for free, it must do so for all candidates.”

Don’t expect the Seattle corporate set to do anything on behalf of Ms. Smiley soon. But it shouldn’t be too much to ask that they do their politicking straight—and out in the open.

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