What happens when you police political speech

The so-called "reformers" are upset.  Where once they objected to one FEC nominee, they now protest two nominees.  They throw out charges of partisanship and political maneuvering as the motive behind changes in the latest slate of nominees.

Of course, we might expect nothing less when a government agency is put in charge of policing political speech.

More after the jump. 

Filed Under: Blog

The Issue Beyond Leake and Pregnant in SpeechNow.org

If the precedent coming out of SpeechNow.org is that independent and non-corrupting organizations still can be made to register on the basis of their "major purpose," then the chill of complaints and threat of investigations into issue advocates and 501(c)(4) organizations will continue unnecessarily and unabated.

Click on the title to read more…

Filed Under: Blog

A McCain Court

Senator John McCain gave a speech yesterday outlining the type of judges he would seek to appoint as President of the United States.  McCain said he would nominate jurists who are, "faithful in all things to the Constitution of the United States."

Interesting words from a man who once said that he "would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected."

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Legislator Occupations – Change or Status Quo After Clean Elections?

CCP released its second Issue Analysis today studying the impact of so-called "clean elections" programs in Maine and Arizona.

Proponents of taxpayer-financed political campaigns like to claim that such programs allow "ordinary citizens" to serve in government.

CCP looked at the data and found that forcing taxpayers to fund political campaigns has no impact on the occupational diversity of members of the legislature.

Click HERE for the full study.

Filed Under: Blog

Leake and SpeechNow.org: similar only at first glance

As my colleague Mike Schrimpf notes, First Amendment advocates should find much to celebrate in the majority opinion of North Carolina Right to Life v. Leake.  Judge Harvie Wilkinson cleared up a multitude of vagueness problems, prevented an unaccountable board of regulators from wielding the burden of political committee status as a weapon in ideological battle, and protected groups engaging in non-electoral issue speech from unwarranted regulation.      

Professor Rick Hasen also notes the similarities between the legal arguments made by NCRL in Leake and those being made by SpeechNow.org (full-disclosure: CCP attorneys jointly represent SpeechNow.org).  On one level he is correct – the idea that groups making independent expenditures may not be subjected to contribution limits is at the heart of both cases.  As the speech of neither plaintiff, SpeechNow.org nor NCRL’s Fund for Independent Political Expenditures (NCRL-FIPE), raise any danger of corruption, both groups should arguably be equally free of regulatory burdens. 

However, the similarities between the cases end there.

More after the jump. 

Filed Under: Blog

The regulator’s hand, once loosed, is not easily leashed

Judge Wilkinson, writing the majority opinion in North Carolina Right to Life v. Leake, declares that "the regulator’s hand, once loosed, is not easily leashed."


NCRL v. Leake is a welcome victory for First Amendment proponents fearful of the encroachment of campaign finance regulations on core political speech. Few judges seem to better understand the stakes than Judge Wilkinson, as expressed in his addressing of the dissenting opinion.

"This is not some marginal or incidental freedom with which the dissent is dealing. Rather it is the essential freedom that defines our ability — both individually and collectively — to speak in unfettered fashion on the most pressing issues of the day, and to express approval or disapproval of the functioning of our representative government."

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

FEC Stalemate

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has pitched a new deal in an effort to reopen the doors at the Federal Election Commission, which remain virtually shuttered by a Senate stalemate over its nominees.  

Currently, this regulatory panel charged with overseeing campaign finance and political speech restrictions finds itself four Commissioners short and unable to act in the midst of the longest primary contest in recent memory.

Skeptics of campaign finance regulations have long voiced concerns that the FEC’s primary use is as a pawn for political operatives with which to harass, intimidate, and even silence their opponents. But never before has the inanity of the entire campaign finance regime been so apparent.

The Senate deadlock arises from objections by Democratic Senators and campaign finance "reform" organizations to a nominee, Hans von Spakovsky, who served on the FEC without controversy as a recess appointment for more than a year and a half.  Nonetheless, his critics have seized on his previous tenure at the Department of Justice to obfuscate and argue that he is unfit to enforce the nation’s campaign finance laws.

Not surprisingly, the so-called "reform" organizations, notably the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy21, pin the impasse squarely on Senator Mitch McConnell, a long time defender of free speech. 

Fred Wertheimer has said that shutting down the FEC is "worthy of a banana republic — and in this case the buck stops with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell."

Of course, the truth is much more complicated. 

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Buying Time in the Connecticut Legislature Before Clean Elections

The authors investigate a simple question: what does money contributed to legislators buy? Evidence that money buys votes (and theoretical explanations for why we should expect such a relationship) is thin at best. A more compelling explanation of what money buys argues that money buys legislators’ time. Using a research design similar to that employed in previous academic studies, the authors investigate the impact of campaign contributions, institutional position, legislative experience, and constituency interest on rates and types of participation in committee by Connecticut state legislators before the implementation of public financing in that state. This paper is part of a larger research project on the impact of taxpayer financed elections on electoral and legislative politics in the states. While the current analysis is limited to a rather small sample of legislation that meets the criteria necessary to execute this design, their findings are encouraging. The authors emphasize three here: (1) campaign contributions from interest groups (in this case, labor unions) are positive predictors of legislators’ participation in committee-level deliberations over legislation in which the group has a strong stake; (2) one’s status as a party leader depresses one’s level of participation in committee deliberations, as does being a first term legislator; and, (3) the relationship between contributions and participation emerges only on the committee of primary referral.

Filed Under: Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, campaign contributions, Contribution, Contribution Limits, Contributions & Limits, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Connecticut

Issue Analysis 2: Legislator Occupations: Change or Status Quo After Clean Elections?

This CCP study examines the claim that taxpayer financing programs allow a greater number of “non-traditional” candidates to run for office and win, focusing on legislators in Maine and Arizona before and after their respective programs began.  The report finds no evidence that taxpayer financing in either state has had any impact on the number of legislators from “non-traditional” backgrounds.

Filed Under: Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Faulty Assumptions, Faulty Assumptions, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Arizona, Maine

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