That’s one way to increase turnout

A candidate for the Knox County (TN) commission attempted to conduct a novel giveaway at the polls during yesterday’s primary election.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Democratic candidate Amy Broyles wanted to "distribute school supplies for children at polling stations."

Continuing, "Broyles said there were no campaign messages on any of the supplies. After word of the idea was circulated, Broyles said donations arrived from all over the county. She said ‘about $800’ worth of supplies were purchased.

But, "After we started buying supplies, then we got word that it might not be such a good idea," Broyles told the News Sentinel.

She now plans to deliver the supplies directly to schools in her district, instead of at polling locations.

Filed Under: Blog

Study on New Jersey “Clean Elections” Contributors

Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) study undermines claims about the ability of “Clean Elections” to reduce the importance of interest groups in the political process. The research also found that perceptions about what motivates an elected official’s vote have little to do with how a candidate’s campaign is financed.

Filed Under: Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns

Study undermines key claims about “Clean Elections”

 The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) released a study today that undermines claims about the ability of "Clean Elections" to reduce the importance of interest groups in the political process.

CCP research also found that perceptions about what motivates an elected official’s vote have little to do with how a candidate’s campaign is financed.

"Members of organized interest groups remain instrumental in providing support to candidates participating in these taxpayer-funded political campaign schemes," said CCP President Sean Parnell. "Moreover, replacing private, voluntary contributions with taxpayer dollars had little impact on the public’s perception of whether or not their elected officials are responsive to constituent needs."

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Hard of hearing

Some members of the California legislature are apparently a little hard of hearing. 

The California Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing today on A.B. 583, which seeks to establish a government-financed election program for the 2014 Secretary of State race.  A.B. 583 amends the Political Reform Act of 1974, an initiative measure.  The portions of A.B. 583 that amends the Political Reform Act of 1974 must also be approved by the voters at the June 8, 2010 statewide primary to take effect.

But just two years ago California voters declared loudly and clearly that they did not want government-financed elections.  Nearly 75 percent of voters rejected Proposition 89 which sought to establish a government-financed election system.

Ironically, also on the 2006 ballot was Proposition 83, which asked voters whether they wanted to increase penalties for sex offenders.  Prop. 83 passed by a wide margin.  Taxpayer financing, on the other hand, lost.  Badly. 

How badly? 

More Californians supported keeping softer penalties for sex offenders than supported taxpayer financing.

Proponents of taxpayer financed political campaigns take note: when sex offenders are more popular than your political cause, it may be time to find a new cause.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

“He Might Come After Me Next”

The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel reported last week on the race for Attorney General in West Virginia.  There, Darrell McGraw, the incumbent, is fighting a spirited challenge from Dan Greear.  Greear is attacking McGraw for politicizing the office of Attorney General and abusing his power. 

According to Strassel, Greear has a problem: "fear."  She quotes Greear as saying, "I go to so many people and hear the same thing: ‘I sure hope you can beat him, but I can’t afford to have my name on your records.  He might come after me next.’"

Of course, there are many questions here:  there is no particular reason to doubt Greear’s veracity, but the charge fits neatly into his campaign, and if not false may be somewhat exaggerated.  And assuming that many people have told this to Greear, it could be that they are not telling the truth – perhaps they just want a reason to turn down Greear’s request. 

That said, the charge certainly has a ring of truth about it, especially in an era when the Elliott Spitzer approach to Attorney Generalship – sans prostitutes – seems to be the norm.  And it is an important reminder that involuntary disclosure of campaign contributions is not without costs.  In virtually every other aspect of life the Supreme Court has regularly defended the right to engage in anonymous speech, in part because of its recognition of the potential for harassment and abuse of power by government officials to silence disfavored voices.  

Disclosure of campaign contributions offers benefits, too, which is why I have written in support of disclosure requirements.  But such disclosure need not encompass – as some are fond of saying – "every penny, instantly."  And it is well to remember that the purpose of disclosure is to inform citizens about government, not to inform government about citizens.  This is why forced disclosure of grassroots lobbying – that is, communications from citizens to other citizens, seeking to mobilize support for or against particular issues – is a bad idea.  Like any form of regulation, disclosure has costs as well as benefits, and should be unleashed with care. 

Filed Under: Blog

What’s the hold up?

While Rush Limbaugh celebrates his twentieth anniversary as a talk radio host, a long simmering stew over the future of the so-called "fairness doctrine" is threatening to boil over.

On Thursday, reported that a bill – the Broadcaster’s Freedom Act – to permanently ban the long dormant FCC rule will not be voted on during this Congress.  House republicans had tried to force a vote by launching a discharge petition.  A sucessful discharge petition requires 218 signatues, and to date the Broadcaster’s Freedom Act petition has only garnered 202 signatures.

The same article indicated that democratic leaders favor reimposing the fairness doctrine. Republican leader John Boehner said that he "doubts" the fairness doctrine would come back "despite Speaker Pelosi’s support for it."

But if Boehner is right, it remains a mystery as to why Broadcaster’s Freedom Act cannot receive a vote in Congress. Last year, 113 democrats voted in favor of an amendment that temporarily bans the fairness doctrine, but none have signed on to the discharge petition.

Rep. Mike Pence, sponsor of the Broadcaster’s Freedom Act told that he thinks "pressure from Democratic leadership in Congress has caused many Democratic members to remain silent on the Fairness Doctrine issue."

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Taxpayer-financing in NJ teetering towards the cliff

The future of taxpayer-financed political campaigns in New Jersey is teetering precariously after the legislature withdrew a proposal to expand the program this Spring and the Office of Legislative Services issued an opinion declaring that "matching funds" provisions are unconstitutional.

Most of the recent attention has rightfully been focused on the OLS’s opinion, which very well could be a crippling blow to the taxpayer-financing scheme. But, while it is certainly important to carefully examine the details – like the OLS opinion – that could undermine the future of tax-financing in New Jersey, it is also important to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Taxpayer-financed political campaigns in the New Jersey are ill-advised regardless of the OLS opinion, a fact that even some supporters in the Garden state may be starting to realize.  

Much more after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Issue Analysis 3: Do ‘Clean Elections’ increase the number of female legislators?

This CCP study examines the claim that taxpayer financing programs result in a greater number of women being elected to state legislature.  The report finds, however, that neither state saw a rise in women running and being elected to office after the enactment of taxpayer financing programs.

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.