One billion dollars.  The number seems to keep cropping up this presidential election.  First it was former FEC Chairman Michael Toner who suggested that combined spending between the two major candidates could surpass one billion dollars.  Now it’s reported that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to spend that much on an independent bid for the presidency.

John Lott has written an article discussing Bloomberg’s potential run and the role that campaign finance regulation has played in the rise of mega-rich candidates.  As Lott explains, part of the reason why "123 out of 435 members of congress" earned at least one million dollars last year can be attributed to contribution limits:

Wealthy candidates avoid spending time asking already loyal supporters for small amounts of money. They can avoid the massive cost of mailings to raise money from the already converted and concentrate on mailings to those who haven’t made up their minds yet. The candidates themselves can spend their time talking to undecided voters.

"The ultimate irony," concludes Lott, "is that in trying to get money out of politics, reformers have made it easier for those with money to get in."

Filed Under: Blog

Breaking News: Meehan grassroots disclosure amendment defeated in Judiciary Committee

We’re hearing reports that Rep. Meehan’s grassroots lobbying disclosure amendment has been defeated in the Judiciary Committee.  Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-CA) all spoke in opposition to the measure.  Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) spoke in support.

Rep. Davis had previously questioned CCP Chairman Brad Smith on the constitutionality of grassroots lobbying disclosure when Smith testified on March 1st before the Judiciary Comittee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.  We’re pleased that Rep. Davis found CCP’s arguments convincing.  A transcript of that discussion is available here (p. 61-63).

Filed Under: Blog

A “reform” paradox in Philly: wasted time well-spent

In his post below, Brad Smith observes, "it seems like only yesterday that reformers were arguing that regulation was needed because candidates had to spend too much time raising money."

I can’t speak to whether any reformers actually made that argument yesterday, but the odds seem pretty good,   considering it was made just this morning by the Tucson Weekly, two months ago by Democracy 21, last year by Justice John Paul Stevens, and last decade by Walter Mondale.

Click the headline for quotes and links.

Filed Under: Blog

Philadelphia: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

You’d think there would be nothing more to say about the Philadelphia Mayor’s race, but the "reform" advocates just keep on giving, and we can’t help ourselves.  Today, it’s the Philadelphia Daily News that is singing the praises of campaign finance regulation:

"Asking candidates to raise money in smaller chunks also tested their mettle. Nutter spent four to five hours a day dialing for donors, demonstrating doggedness and a stellar work ethic."

Ah, it seems like only yesterday that reformers were arguing that regulation was needed because candidates had to spend too much time raising money.  Now we learn that the problem is that they’ve been spending too little.

When reform takes on the characteristics of religion, all roads, we guess, lead to "reform." 

Filed Under: Blog

Policy Primers: Grassroots Advocacy

The Center for Competitive Politics published two policy primers on grassroots advocacy. They detail the incompatible relationship between regulating grassroots activity and reforming the lobbying industry and addresses the Consitutional protections of anonymous grassroots activism.

Filed Under: Lobbying, Research, lobbying, lobbyist, Lobbying, Lobbying

Religious Faith and Campaign Finance Reform, or “Where’s the Beef?”

We’ve had some fun discussing the ridiculous effects of Philadelphia’s ridiculous campaign finance laws on yesterday’s Democratic Mayoral primary, won by City Councilman Michael Nutter.  Today what is intriguing is the assessment of the city’s campaign finance laws, and the campaign, in today’s Philly Inquirer.  The Inquirer, we think, demonstrates the religious-like faith that supporters of "reform" place in the regulatory enterprise.  Or are they less like believers discussing their faith and more like the bandidos in Treasure of the Sierra Madre: "Badges? We don’t need no badges.  I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!"  "Evidence?  We don’t need no evidence! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ evidence!"  Rather, the Inquirer merely asserts, despite all the evidence and hand-wringing, "The city’s new campaign finance laws work."  But as Walter Mondale might have said, "Where’s the beef?"  Click the headline for the good stuff that follows, as we mock the eminently mockable Inquirer and point out, more seriously, some of the odd reasoning of "reform." 

Filed Under: Blog

Grassroots lobbying disclosure: in or out?

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (H.R. 2316) was introduced last night.  We’ve been waiting to see whether grassroots lobbying disclosure would be part of the base bill.  Now, the Hill reports:

Democratic leaders have kept language [from the 2006 bill] requiring organizations that conduct public communications campaigns to disclose their funding sources if they receive or spend more than $50,000 over a three-month period.

But don’t despair, because CQ Today reports:

As notable as [increased lobbyist disclosure] requirements would be, equally notable is what the bill would not try to change. The leadership decided not to try to regulate grass-roots lobbying . . .

So which is it? 

We’ve scanned the text of the bill, available here, and it looks like CQ got this one right.  Grassroots lobbying disclosure is nowhere to be found.  Opponents of grassroots lobbying disclosure must still contend with H.R. 2093, Rep. Meehan’s stand-alone provision, which will likely be offered as an amendment.  Nevertheless, this is good news.

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

H.R. 2316

Text of the "Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007"

Filed Under: Faulty Assumptions, Lobbying, Research

Closer Than We Think, Part II: “Judgment” and its Appeal

Wisconsin Right To Life II points up the sweeping stakes in campaign finance regulation, and how reformers are closer than we think to scoring an enormous victory in the case, even in defeat.

Part I is here.

Click on the title to read more …

Filed Under: Blog

“Another assault on the First Amendment”

At least thats the way the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund sees the latest "effort to curb political speech"

Fund, who has written on the topic before, recognizes the possible negative ramifications the legislation could have, even on people like Oprah Winfrey:

"The possible outcomes are disturbing. For example, Oprah Winfrey operates a website dedicated to urging people to contact Congress to deman intervention in Darfur.  If her Web master took in over $100,000 in revenue from Ms. Winfrey and similar clients in a single quarter, he might be forced to make disclosures under the law."

Click HERE to read the entire column.

Filed Under: Blog

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