Will they go to lunch?

Back in March, we highlighted the dilemma posed by the new ethics law that prevents some journalists from taking members of Congress or their staffers to lunch.

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

At the time, Roll Call blasted the law arguing in an editorial that it "provide(s) a marginal advantage for reporters not covered by the ban."

But now the ethics situation may get even trickier for some journalists. Politico reports that the Society of Professional Journalists is dispatching journalists to lobby lawmakers on the proposed shield law.

After the reporters are finished lobbying Congress, will they then be able to take them to lunch?

Filed Under: Blog

Arizona ballot access decision

Via Ballot Access News:

"On July 9, the 9th circuit struck down two Arizona ballot access restrictions: (1) an independent presidential petition deadline in early June; (2) a law that out-of-state residents may not circulate petitions in Arizona. The case is Nader v Brewer, 06-16251.

The vote was 3-0. The decision striking down the ban on out-of-state circulators, by its logic, would apply to any type of petition. Judge Mary M. Schroeder wrote the opinion."

Filed Under: Blog

A new sheriff in town?

Here at CCP,  we stand up for the First Amendment rights of speech, association, and petition by highlighting the effects of burdensome campaign finance regulations enforced by regulatory bodies.

Usually, the bodies that regulate political speech are purposefully chartered to police  campaign finance and ethics laws and often have Orwellian names like the "Fair Political Practices Commission." 

So, even we were a bit surprised when we read about the Minnesota Gambling Control Board investigation into the fundraising practices of Barack Obama.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Are “Reformers” Giving Obama a Pass – and What Does Their Reaction Tell Us?

Senator Barack Obama’s decision to forego government financing in the presidential general election has been the cause of considerable consternation in some “reform” quarters.  Some "reform" groups long supportive of tax financing of campaigns have been quite critical of the decision.  At the same time, however, there is a broad perception that many reform organizations have chosen to go easy on Obama, on the grounds that the current tax-financing system is “broken,” and that Senator Obama cannot be blamed for remaining in a system that seems likely to substantially harm his chances for election.  Others note that Obama is raising record amounts in small contributions, although truth be told he still gets most money from evil “bundlers” and/or in “large” contributions (if $1000 or $2300 can be called “large” in the context of a $500 million campaign), and this, too, is said to excuse his decision to use private, voluntary financing instead of taking the government subsidy. 

Certainly the current tax-financing system for presidential campaigns could be improved (we’ll leave aside what it would mean to say the system is “improved” – my ideas may not always match the “reformers,” although sometimes they would).  But I have previously taken issue with the description of the tax financing system as “broken.”   In fact, it works as designed, right down to the low percentage of Americans who earmark tax dollars for the system (why have an earmark option if not to give citizens the ability not to earmark?) and the decision of candidates not to participate in the system (after all, the system’s constitutionality under existing precedent relies on participation being voluntary).  The system is, at worst, “outdated,” not “broken,” but we ought to consider the very real possibility that it never really had much value, or much potential, and that other tax-financing systems will face the same hurdles. 

That aside, how much credence should we give to the reform organizations’ argument that Senator Obama should not be held to participation, despite his claimed support for tax-financing, because the system is a) “broken;” b) participation would be contrary to his electoral interests?; and c) he raising lots of money in small contributions?  Not much, I think.


Click the headline for more…

Filed Under: Blog

Aloha means goodbye to free speech

Today marks the last day that Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle can veto bills passed by the Hawaii legislature in their 2008 session. Unfortunately, a bill that will bring taxpayer-financed political campaigns to Big Island County Council races is not on the list of possible vetoes. As a result, Big Island residents will lose their voices in political debate and will see no return on the tax dollars invested in the political welfare program.

For more objections to the Hawaii bill see CCP’s letter to the governor and our op-ed in the Hawaii Reporter.

Filed Under: Blog

Will the Republican Party take a position on campaign finance at the GOP convention?

On Monday, the Washington Post highlighted the alleged looming battle between conservative party activists and John McCain over the Republican Party’s convention platform.

"Conservative activists are preparing to do battle with allies of Sen. John McCain in advance of September’s Republican National Convention, hoping to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party’s official declaration of principles," the Post reported.

The rest of the article examines the potential of party infighting over contentious issues like immigration, global warming, and stem cell research, while noting common agreement over the "war against terror" and the war in Iraq.

Left unexamined is the tension between McCain and conservative activists over one of the Senator’s signature issues – campaign finance regulation. But, if the RNC’s 2007 winter meeting is any indication, the battle over the Party’s position on campaign finance regulation could be explosive.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

That pesky First Amendment

In attempting to untie " a Knot in Campaign Finance", Robert Frank frays the rope with whispered intimations about the evils of free political speech.

I will not pretend to offer a better critique of Frank’s commentary than is offered in Bauer’s well-written post, but Frank’s piece – given its quiet hostility towards the First Amendment – deserves some mention from CCP. 

Frank writes that "campaign spending is driven by the same logic that governs a military arms race," but this can be forgiven because the "waste from campaign spending is relatively trivial – at most, a small fraction of 1 percent of national income." Frank goes on to say that this level of spending is not the problem, but given such language, one wonders whether Frank would approve if America spent more of its money on electing its officeholders.

But the most startling of Frank’s comments are when he declares that "the harsh reality is that free speech and good government are conflicting goals."

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Give speech a chance

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – home district paper of congressional candidate Jack Davis – ran a pair of op-eds (including one by Davis) examining the wider impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in overturning the Millionaire’s Amendment.  The opinions were predictable.

Davis contends that the current system allows lobbyists to have too large a voice in Washington. Naturally, voters should cast their ballots for him because his wealth allows him to be independent "from status quo politics and fundraising."

A representative of the League of Women Voters predictably counters that the decision makes it easier "to buy a seat in Congress."  But as Justice Samuel Alito suggested in the Court’s majority opinion overturning the Millionaire’s Amendment, if one believes that contribution limits "make it harder for candidates who are not wealthy to raise funds and therefore provide a substantial advantage for wealthy candidates…then the obvious remedy is to raise or eliminate those limits."

Notably absent from the paper’s opinion pages was any suggestion that the best thing for our democracy is a return to First Amendment principles.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Welfare Fraud

In a delicious piece of irony, the Hartford Courant reports today that Connecticut state senator Joe Crisco, who voted for the state’s new government-financing program, was denied the $85,000 government handout for failing to properly certify his application.

Instead of having his campaign treasurer sign an affidavit pledging to abide by the rules of the political welfare scheme, Crisco allowed his treasurer’s secretary to sign the name of the treasurer.

Filed Under: Blog

Web politics

The impact that the internet has had on Barack Obama’s ability/decision to opt out of the presidential public financing system has been examined to the point of near exhaustion. Over the weekend, the New York Times offered an insightful look into another way that the internet has transformed politics.

This phenomen has turned "political activists" into "communications political strategists" and allowed citizens to reach an audience the size of which watches Meet the Press for as little as $50. The cause, of course, is the ability of just about anyone to use inexpensive editing software to produce their own political videos that could be viewed by millions on YouTube and other video sharing sites.

"For years I sat in conversations with people who said the only way we can be effective is we have to raise $1 billion and buy CBS. Well, Google raised a couple of billion and bought YouTube, and it’s here for us, and it’s a huge, huge difference,” observed one online activist.

The internet’s ability to amplify the voice of ordinary citizens should merit protection across the political spectrum.

Filed Under: Blog

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