Will the Take Back America Conference ever replace the Democratic Convention?

Six years ago today the Senate approved the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act.  At the time, many opponents of the bill were warning that the bill would likely result in a weakening of the political parties relative to other advocacy organizations like 527’s, 501(c)4’s and even other political committees.

Appropriate then, that liberal groups chose this week to announce that they plan to spend up to $400 million in the build up to the 2008 general election. For comparison, the Democratic National Committee spent less than $390 million in the 2004 election cycle.

Defenders of the bill argue that BCRA did not inflict irreparable harm onto the political parties by noting, correctly, that political parties today are raising sums in record amounts.

Indeed, this is true – but there is more to the story – after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Shooting holes in the First Amendment

Some readers of this blog may also be following the DC vs. Heller case argued in the Supreme Court today over the District of Columbia’s ban on private ownership of handguns and its restrictions on long-gun ownership. While the Center for Competitive Politics neither favors nor opposes either side in this case, a particular line of questioning jumped out that has some relevance to CCP’s mission.

We pick up where Chief Justice Roberts is asking about the appropriateness of a total ban on handgun possession, on page 18 of the transcript:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What is — what is reasonable about a total ban on possession?

MR. DELLINGER: What is reasonable about a total ban on possession is that it’s a ban only an the possession of one kind of weapon, of handguns, that’s been considered especially — especially dangerous. The —

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So if you have a law that prohibits the possession of books, it’s all right if you allow the possession of newspapers?

MR. DELLINGER: No, it’s not, and the difference is quite clear. If — if you — there is no limit to the public discourse. If there is an individual right to guns for personal use, it’s to carry out a purpose, like protecting the home. You could not, for example, say that no one may have more than 50 books. But a law that said no one may possess more than 50 guns would — would in fact be I think quite reasonable.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: The regulation – the regulation at issue here is not one that goes to the number of guns. It goes to the specific type. And I understood your argument to be in your brief that because rifles and shotguns are not banned to the staple extent as handguns, it’s all right to ban handguns.

MR. DELLINGER: That is correct because there is no showing in this case that rifles and handguns are not fully satisfactory to carry out the purposes…

I thought it interesting that while Dellinger states that "there is no limit to the public discourse," (an excellent observation, by the way) his argument that banning handguns is OK because it is a ban on only one specific type of gun – while there are other objects that do the job just as well – is functionally equivalent to many of the arguments by opponents of unencumbered political speech.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Video: Voices on Voting: Election Law in 2008

Harvard Journal on Legislation hosted a symposium March 6th on campaign finance law featuring the likes of CCP Academic Advisor Allison Hayward and Jan Baran, Bob Bauer, Jim Bopp Jr., Marty Meehan, and Fred Wertheimer.

Video of the event can be found by clicking HERE.

Filed Under: Blog

The positive impact of negative advertising

The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that Sen. Barack Obama is preparing a "a full assault on Sen. Hillary Clinton over ethics and transparency."

Within hours the Clinton campaign responded by alleging that Obama should be held accountable by the media for going "shockingly negative" after "he had promised to play nice."

"This is a tried-and-true technique of the Obama campaign that has repeatedly shifted negative when they find the momentum shifting against them," said Clinton aide Mark Penn. 

Penn’s comment prompted Politico reporter Ben Smith to ask, "whether that hadn’t also been what Clinton did when she found the momentum shifting against her."

Penn demured in response to Smith’s question, answering: "They have decided to go consistently negative. They have gone personally negative against Sen. Clinton repeatedly in this campaign, and that is a big difference."

Of couse, the real difference over whether an advertisment is "negative" or "drawing a contrast" is through the eyes of beholder. And the truth is that no matter what you call it, negative/contrast messages, like all political speech, play an important role in our democracy.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Media calls for exemption to ethics law

Roll Call published an editorial ($) yesterday ridiculing the new ethics law that bars some journalists from taking members of Congress or their staffers to lunch.

Put simply, if a journalist is employed by a news organization that employs lobbyists they can not take a Hill source to lunch. But these new rules do not apply to media outlets that do not employ lobbysists.

The editorial maintains, therefore, that the new law "does provide a marginal advantage for reporters not covered by the ban."

The editorial goes on to note that "Greg Keeley, president of the Senate Press Secretaries Association and spokesman for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), had it right when he told Roll Call that the rules are ‘too complicated,’ adding, ‘what influence a journalist is going to have on my boss’s legislative agenda, it’s a bit of a long bow to draw.’

Roll Call agrees by concluding that "We have a solution to offer: House and Senate amendments exempting accredited journalists from the ethics rule." 

So, essentially Roll Call argues that the media should be exempt from the ethics rules because the idea that a journalist might influence the legislative agenda is "a long bow to draw."

Needless to say, such reasoning merits further exploration.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

VEC Petition for a Writ of Certiorari

Petition for a Writ of Certiorari

Filed Under: Uncategorized, Completed Cases (Litigation), Litigation

Group Asks Supreme Court to Review Case with Major Campaign Finance Implications

The Voter Education Committee (VEC) asked the Supreme Court on Monday to review a case that has major implications for "McCain-Feingold" and state campaign finance laws throughout the nation.
The VEC challenges a Washington state law which requires any organization that supports or opposes a candidate or ballot issue to register as a "political committee" absent of express advocacy.
"The implications are huge for all of the states that, after McCain-Feingold, thought they could use broad standards to muzzle political speech," said Bradley A. Smith, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics.
More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

What will be the justification?

A CQ Weekly article this week examines what the likelihood of two presidential nominees who support government-financed elections means for efforts to "revive" the largely defunct presidential taxpayer financing system.

According to its advocates, the "problem" with the current system – laid out in the CQ piece, as well as, a recent editorial and op-ed in the Washington Post – is that the spending limits are too low.  In essence, even proponents of campaign finance regulation admit that spending limits are de facto speech limits.

So, as alluded to by Bob Bauer, public-financing advocates are forced to argue that campaigns need the government payouts to guard against corruption and the appearance of corruption.  But Bauer also notes that asking citizens to subsidize knavish politicians is an all but impossible task.  Instead, Bauer suggests putting forward "a message of participation, to a picture drawn of a politics in which theirs is the leading part."

Abandoning the "corruption" argument – if only for debate on reforming presidential public financing system – would be a major departure for campaign finance regulation advocates and is unlikely to happen. 

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

CCP Accepting Applications for Legal Intern


Across the country, at the state and federal level, free speech is being attacked under the guise of campaign finance "reform." Want to do something about it? The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) is seeking a Legal Intern to join our team during and help us fight political speech regulation. 

Click the headline for details.

Filed Under: Blog

Money well spent?

A study released by a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Foundation reveals that – make sure you’re sitting – Pew Charitable Trusts wasted a lot of money underwriting efforts to enact restrictive campaign finance laws.

Supporters of campaign finance and speech regulations, supported primarily by large foundations including Pew, like to argue that money plays an unholy role in politics, skewing legislative and policy outcomes away from those that "serve the people" and towards  so-called "special interests."

What a surprise then, when a Pew study grading state governments reveals that states with the least restrictive campaign finance laws are among the best governed states in the nation, while those with more restrictive laws fall toward the bottom.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

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