Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion in Yes on Term Limits v. Savage

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Filed Under: Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Yes on Term Limits v. Savage

Unpopular (and unconstitutional) public funding

It’s a refreshing, although far too rare, event to see a newspaper taking the position that public financing of elections might not be such a good thing.  So I knew I had to keep reading when I saw a Yuma Sun editorial that began: "Is public funding for political candidates in Arizona doomed to die?  We hope so."

The editorial goes on to make a point that isn’t made enough about public financing — namely, that so-called "clean elections" regimes are actually anti-democratic.

As the Sun explained:

"Raising private funding to seek office is, in fact, critical to the political process.  It demonstrates the candidate has the kind of skills necessary to get support from the public that is needed to win and serve.  It is part of the selection process for those seeking office."

"When the state intervenes to favor candidates with funding they might not otherwise be able to get, it skews the process against those who have demonstrated the ability to gain needed backing, and that is unfair."

Quite right.  Bestowing public financing essentially props up candidacies that would otherwise falter because of their lack of popular support.  Moreover, subsidizing candidates with public funds also means that taxpayers who never would have contributed — or even supported the candidate — end up having to do so anyway.

To read more, click the headline. 

Filed Under: Blog

Newsweek’s Samuelson defends lobbying

Robert Samuelson of Newsweek has some great observations about lobbyists, reprinted at the Web site RealClearPolitics.com.

After first remarking on how President-elect Obama’s plans for new programs, spending, and regulation will lead to a frenzy of lobbyist activity, he goes on to explain why that’s a good thing (the lobbying, not necessarily Obama’s plans):

Lobbyists have a bad rap, which is why politicians routinely vilify them. People want to blame their discontents on sleazy influence merchants. Periodic scandals confirm the stereotypes: the Jack Abramoffs who wine and dine legislators. But mainly the anti-lobbying bias is mythology.

Myth number one is that lobbying is anti-democratic, because it frustrates "the will of the people." Just the opposite is true: lobbying is an expression of democracy.

To read more about Samuelson’s piece and the fundamental fallacy of "reform," click the headline above

Filed Under: Blog

Toledo Mayor Yearns for ‘Censorship Doctrine’

A coalition of business leaders in Ohio started a petition campaign to recall Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. The business groups claim the mayor has created a hostile business environment by wasting tax dollars and for other alleged misgivings.

A report in The Toledo Journal details the feud and the mayor’s reaction:

Mayor Finkbeiner blasted a third leader of the recall drive, Andy Stuart, who is general manager for Clear Channel Toledo. Among the radio stations he oversees is WSPD, whose talk-show hosts criticize the mayor on a daily basis.

"This man, again, lives outside of Toledo, and does not have a vote in Toledo," the mayor said. "But this master of negative news about Toledo wants Toledo voters to turn Toledo over to him, Mr. McMahon and Mr. Schlachter."

The mayor claimed that WSPD is in violation of "the Fairness Doctrine principle" because it will not give him airtime to reply to its "vicious, one-sided diatribes." He said he will ask U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to hold hearings on radio station abuses. He said he wants the House committee "to investigate all tapes of WSPD during the past three years."

It’s telling that the mayor’s reaction to critical information of him is to call for the return of a law censoring speech that hasn’t been in place since 1987. If the Federal Communications Commission enacts local control regulations of radio stations, expect this sort of political pressure to effectively replace what was once known as the ‘fairness doctrine.’ For the record, Mayor Finkbeiner, there’s no such thing as "the Fairness Doctrine principle." It’s called censorship.

Filed Under: Blog

No reason to ‘fix’ a win

After this year’s presidential campaign — in which Barack Obama first shunned public financing and then eclipsed virtually any campaign finance record you can measure — the "reform" community is pushing for the new President and Congress to "fix" the system.

But, as the Washington Times reported Monday, changing the rules of the campaign finance game now might not be such a popular agenda on Capitol Hill or in the White House since the incoming powers-that-be did pretty darn well with the system that’s already in place.

"The Democratic leadership may decide Obama is better off without an overhaul of the public financing system," Michael Toner, a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, told the Times.  "These electoral calculations are never far from anybody’s mind," he explained.

Really?  Politicians putting their own interest in getting re-elected and retaining political power ahead of principle when it comes to legislation?  Say it ain’t so.

Click the headline for more. 

Filed Under: Blog

The Fairness Doctrine, Rod Blagojevich, and Richard Nixon

Much of the coverage of yesterday’s criminal complaint filed against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich focuses on his efforts to "sell" the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Obama, along with his tawdry fundraising practices where he apparently exchanged large gifts for lucrative state contracts and benefits.

Another important aspect of this case, one easily lost among the more sensational charges, was Governor Blagojevich’s attempt to silence his critics by using his power to pressure the owner of the Chicago Tribune to fire members of the editorial board. This has clear implications concerning the effort to legalize government intimidation of media outlets who criticize powerful politicians under the guise of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine."

From the Tribune coverage of Governor Blagojevich’s indictment:

Blagojevich… also allegedly conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.

To read more about Rod Blagojevich and what it means for the Fairness Doctrine, click the headline above

Filed Under: Blog

Criminal indictment of politician (cue “reform” calls here)

  To the surprise of almost no one who has followed the governorship of Rod Blagojevich in Illinois, he was arrested today on various charges of abusing his office for personal and political gain. Here is a link to the full criminal complaint against Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

The charges are, to say the least, extensive, and in this case heavily implicate the fundraising practices of Blagojevich. This is somewhat unusual, as most political corruption cases either don’t involve or only barely touch on campaign fundraising.

This, of course, means it won’t be too long (I’m guessing any minute now, if it hasn’t happened already) before so-called campaign finance "reformers" will be citing the Blagojevich case as yet more "proof" that we need taxpayer-funded political campaigns, or "clean elections" as they like to call them.

This would, as usual, ignore the obvious fact that Blagojevich, if he’s done the things he’s alleged to have done, came into office with criminal proclivities and exercised them to the fullest extent possible at the first opportunity.

This can be seen clearly from the allegations concerning the "sale" of the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated shortly by President-elect Obama. Campaign contributions appear to have been on the table as part of the "price," but the focus of his negotiations with potential "buyers" seems to have been for personal gain – board seats for his wife with generous compensation, jobs with union-affiliated organizations, and similar items.

In short, the problem with Blagojevich (assuming the facts are as alleged) was not that he was somehow corrupted by campaign contributions, but that he was corrupt, period. Somehow, I expect that to be lost on most "reformers."

Filed Under: Blog

Common Sense in the Hawkeye State

We’ve been keeping an eye on Iowa, where there appears to be a concerted effort to establish taxpayer-funded political campaigns for state legislature (typically these programs are simply called “clean elections,” in Iowa they’ve chosen to double down on their euphemisms by calling it “voter-owned clean elections).

Today’s Des Moines Register reports that Kevin McCarthy, Democratic Majority Leader in the Iowa General Assembly, smartly rejects the “voter-owned elections” advocates:

McCarthy said that so-called Voter Owned Iowa Clean Elections legislation, which would create a system of public financing for legislative and statewide campaigns, is “flat out bad.” It would cause taxpayer money to rain down in districts where candidates typically spend far less on campaigns, and would cause corporations to control the parties, he said.

As a former resident of the Hawkeye State, it’s great to see Majority Leader McCarthy display the common sense I recall being so widespread in Iowa. The state has enough trouble right now (as do the other 49 states), putting politicians on the public dole is probably the last thing they need to waste time considering or finding funds for.

Filed Under: Blog, Iowa

Can Reformers Tell Fact from Fiction?

Selecting the best political books she’s read in the past year over at Politico’s "The Arena," Christine Pelosi, whose entree to the world of power politics was facilitated, of course, not by money but by something much more arbitrary and less widely distributed, selects John Gresham’s predictable legal thriller, The Appeal.

Why?  "A grim tale of political and legal corruption (lost your case? buy an election and win your own judge!), it is the best argument yet for judicial campaign finance reform." 

The best argument yet for judicial campaign finance reform?  Wait a minute! Christine, The Appeal is fiction!  You know, as in "did not really happen."  As in "make believe."

Jeepers, creepers!  If I knew all you had to do to make the case against reform was to make stuff up, we would have won this debate a long time ago. 

Filed Under: Blog

Idiocy in Broadcast Journalism Awards

Coverage of campaign finance has long been, well terrible, frequently if not usually less about enlightening or even informing the public than it is about misinforming the public.  But the line of stories out today are some of the dumbest we’ve seen yet.

I’ll refer specifically to this report from CBS News, under the headline, "Big 3 Spending Millions on Lobbying: Auto makers drowning in red, but still spend millions lobbying congress," which tells us of the latest "scandal:"

"The auto industry spent nearly $50 million lobbying Congress in the first nine months of this year.

And people tied to the auto industry gave another $15 million in campaign contributions, CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports."

There is so much wrong with this type of reporting, I hardly know where to begin.  But I’ll focus on just four quick hitters, below the fold.  Click the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog

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