Senate Strikes Grassroots Lobbying Restrictions from Lobbying Regulation Bill

Today the Senate voted 55-43 to strike from the lobbying reform bill a provision that would have regulated "grassroots lobbying," that is, communications between citizens and citizen groups about legislative issues facing the Congress.  CCP takes no position on pending legislation, but we have repeatedly stated our view that the public benefits when grassroots lobbying is left unregulated – that it is a matter of both constitutional law and sound public policy.  Simply put, there is no corruption of the government when citizens talk to one another, whether or not those communications are paid for or not.  The Supreme Court has consistently recognized the right of citizens to engage in anonymous speech, for many reasons, not the least of which is to prevent retaliation by those in authority. 

We believe the Senate made a wise choice in separating legitimate questions of lobbying reform from bogus concerns about "astroturf" lobbying made by groups that themselves have no members.  We are proud that CCP’s analysis of the constitutionality of grassroots lobbying restrictions was cited in Senate floor debate.

Update: CCP’s press release on this issue can be found here.

Filed Under: Blog

Grassroots Lobbying Disclosure Round-up

The Free Speech Coalition has released an excellent analysis of the constitutionality of grassroots lobbying disclosure.  It can be found here: LINK

Here are some additional references…

-CCP’s analysis of constitutional protection for anonymous speech: LINK

-CCP’s original Policy Primer on grassroots lobbying disclosure: LINK

-CCP Exec. Director Steve Hoersting’s op-ed on one of the most famous exponents of grassroots lobbying: LINK

-CCP Chairman Brad Smith’s blog post on one of the most infamous exponents of disclosure: LINK  

Filed Under: Blog, lobbying, lobbyist

Stop the presses*

Our recent discussions of the Tillman Act and its impending centennial are more timely than we thought.  According to the Washington Post, the Act, which prohibits political contributions from corporations in federal elections, is being violated on a massive scale.  At least, that’s the conclusion that one might draw from a recent Post info-graphic

Click the headline to read more.

Filed Under: Blog

Mandatory Disclosure: Lessons from the life of Reform’s Founding Father, Ben Tillman

The current rage in Washington is to limit speech to citizens under the guise of lobbying reform.  They call it restrictions on "astroturf lobbying," never mind that citizens are neither inauthentic nor lobbyists. 

We can learn a thing or two about the regulation of "astroturf lobbying" from the life and times of Pitchfork Ben Tillman, the racist South Carolina Senator who is today the Forgotten Founding Father of Campaign Finance Reform.  Well, not really forgotten, but ignored, as an embarrassment to the "reform community."   Because back in Ben Tillman’s day, there were people who wanted disclosure of "astroturf lobbying."  They were called "slaveholders," and their target was the northerners who paid for communications to Southern citizens that questioned the wisdom of slavery.  To read more, click the headline.

Filed Under: Blog

Some Thoughts on the Career of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Grassroots Disclosure

CCP Executive Director Steve Hoersting today posts "MLK, Grassroots Lobbyist," at National Review Online. An excerpt:

We can forget that many powerful forces did oppose the civil rights movement; Jim Crow was the law of the land in many southern states. And we can forget that King led Rosa Parks in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of Jim Crow in the mid 1950s, for which he had his house bombed and also was arrested. We forget that the FBI wiretapped King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1961 to determine whether he was mixed up with the Communists, and when that FBI rationale evaporated, it still used incidental details caught on tape in an attempt to force him out of the leadership of the organization.

We cannot forget that King was out front on an issue of national importance. We cannot forget his fate, and that it was a tragedy. In such an environment, we might wonder how secure would be his backers and consultants if [they] had had to register with the government, disclose their spending, and report the names of the consultants brave enough to help them.

Read the whole thing here.

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog

“How to grease a palm”

Late last year, The Economist ran a very interesting article on government corruption, "How to grease a palm: Corruption has its own elaborate etiquette."  The entire thing is worth reading, but what’s most interesting about the article is its conclusion.  Amidst renewed concern over the supposed "culture of corruption" in Washington, D.C., we think the article is worth another look.

Click the headline to read more. 

Filed Under: Blog

“How to Finish Off the GOP Machine: The Machiavellian case for public financing of elections”

Some things speak for themselves.  Start skimming this article, by Zachary Roth in the Washington Monthly, now.

We will have more to say about this in the future.  For now, start skimming.

Roth sees a playing field inhabited by two players.  Actually, there are three — and I don’t mean the Libertarian or Green Parties.  Are you still reading me?  Well, stop.  And start skimming.

Go ahead, start skimming this article.


Filed Under: Blog

Riding Down Paul Revere: Getting at the Grassroots in the 21st Century

Today the Senate will take up an ethics and lobbying reform bill as its first order of legislative business, reports Kenneth P. Doyle in the BNA Money & Politics Report (January 8, 2007).  Senate aides say that a provision to disclose grassroots lobbying will “definitely” be included.

Grassroots lobbying disclosure of the kind Democracy 21 describes is as “harmless” as King George having the foresight to require “horse stable disclosure” in the 18th Century, including information on those who stabled the horse ridden by Paul Revere.

Grassroots lobbying disclosure is getting a free pass because people think disclosure is always a good thing.  This is not so.  Protecting the right to speak anonymously with fellow citizens about issues, even issues of official action or pending legislation, protects citizens from abusive officeholders.

Click on the headline to read more… 

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog

CCP on Hannity-Colmes Tonight

CCP Chairman Brad Smith will appear on the popular Fox show Hannity & Colmes tonight to discuss further the case of Kirk Shelmerdine and what it tells us about campaign finance laws.  The segment is tentatively scheduled to air between 9:20 and 9:40.


Filed Under: Blog

Integrity or its appearance

Readers may remember back in December when New York’s then-Governor-elect Elliot Spitzer magnanimously limited the size of political contributions that he would accept, a move the New York Times compared to the late Florida Governor Lawton Chiles’s pledge to accept contribution of only $100 or less during his 1990 gubernatorial campaign.  The difference, of course, was that Chiles’s self-imposed limits happened when it mattered, before the election.

Now BNA reports ($) that  Governor Spitzer is making "reform" the centerpiece of his new administration, having "proposed significant campaign finance and lobbying reforms in his first State of the State speech to the legislature Jan. 3."  The "reform" community, or course, is responding with its typical adoration for such proposals.

But if individual contributions up to $50,100 and (gasp!) corporate contributions up to $5,000 were good enough for Spitzer to accept while running for office, what’s so bad about them now?

Click the headline to read more.

Filed Under: Blog

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.