The New York Times clinging to dead ideas

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier today in Citizens United v. FEC. This morning, The New York Times published a ridiculous editorial arguing that the Supreme Court should reject all of Citizens United’s arguments to preserve the flawed regulatory regime of McCain-Feingold.

The Times is most concerned about the Court overruling Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce, a ruling that prevented corporations from using money from their general treasuries to fund express advocacy. The Times doesn’t just attack that provision, though. It splits from several other respected organizations and media outlets that perceive restrictions on content like Hillary: The Movie to be dangerous First Amendment violations.

Campaign finance super lawyer Bob Bauer comes to the rescue and points out the absurdity of the Times’ editorial in a must-read blog post after the jump…

(Click here to read the full post)

Filed Under: Blog

CCP releases statement on Citizens United v. FEC oral arguments

Today the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Citizens United v. FEC. The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing it is unconstitutional for the government to compel the public disclosure of donors to an independent group that made a political documentary and wanted to run advertisements promoting the movie.

CCP Legal Director Reid Alan Cox noted the government’s broad argument that Congress could prohibit corporations or unions from funding books that include even one sentence of candidate advocacy was particularly troubling.

"It appears the Justices may finally be beginning to understand just how limitless and unconstitutional the campaign finance regime has become," said Cox, who attended the argument. "The fact that the government openly took the position that there would be no First Amendment problem with Congress enlarging the electioneering communications ban to books and other media shows just how far away from free speech America has gotten."

CCP Vice President Stephen M. Hoersting stressed the importance of protecting the privacy of donors to independent political groups, an issue the court also considered.

"The purpose of disclosure laws is to permit citizens to monitor their government," Hoersting said. "It is not to permit the government to monitor citizens, or to foster blacklists and harassment of citizens who engage in issue advocacy."

"The government has no anti-corruption or informational interest in the disclosure of non-campaign speech. Issue discussion among citizens is protected through anonymity," Hoersting continued. "While there may be some risk candidates could change positions once elected to reward large contributors, issues don’t change once enacted. Citizens learn nothing about the merits of a filibuster or a tax proposal by knowing if a neighbor donated money to run ads for or against it – and corrupt officials on the opposing side would learn too much."

To read today’s CCP blog post on the Citizens United case, specifically the shifting media view of "reform," follow this link:

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, External Relations Sub-Pages, Federal, Federal Press Releases and Blogs, Press Releases

Is Attempting to Gain Political Influence a Misuse of Office?

Recently, we noted one remarkable feature of Michael Malbin’s recent testimony before the Illinois legislature, that being the absence of any standard for measuring the success of contribution limits or other campaign finance regulations, and indeed the dismissal of the use of public corruption trials as "absurd" and of the quality of government management as a "non-sequitur" as measures for determining if campaign finance regulation is worthwhile.

But Mr. Malbin also offered up a view of politics, and "misuse of office," that is so far from anything known in any political system of which we are aware that it merits a little outright ridicule.  Click the headline to see Malbin’s definition of "misuse of office."

Filed Under: Blog

Is Campaign Finance Reform About Good Government?

Is the movement for "campaign finance reform" about good government?  We’ve long argued that it is not.  Reformers seem to care very little about governmental outputs, thinking it best to focus on an ideology of inputs.  the success of tax funding of campaigns is not measured by whether they lead to better government, but by the number of candidates who participate in the system.  If contributions can’t be shown to be a source of corruption, it is enough if they create "an appearance" of corruption.  Make no mistake – this is an ideology, and a relatively blind one at that, for no study dissuades, no amount of experience shatters the belief that more reform is required.  But historically, reformers have at least argued that they cared about good government.

That’s why Michael Malbin’s testimony before the Illinois General Assembly this week is so interesting.  Malbin directly attacks testimony provided the day before by the Center for Competitive Politics, in a most interesting way – good government, it seems, is not at all important as a goal of campaign finance reform.  Click the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog

The right time for taxpayer financing of all federal elections, really?

Ever since the political revelers danced their way out of the inaugural balls, campaign finance issues haven’t been front and center on either the public or the political stage.  After all, if you haven’t heard, America — along with the rest of the world — is in quite an economic mess.

The federal government’s fix for the economic crisis has been a surge — if that’s a strong enough word — in federal spending to bailout financial giants that are "too big to fail."  But using taxpayer dollars to prop up Wall Street hasn’t been an uncontroversial move anywhere, most notably on Main Street.  Indeed, more than a few people are worried about the runaway spending spree and record budget deficits that Americans will have to be pay off at some point in the future.

So we here at CCP were a little surprised to learn earlier this week, in a National Journal article, that "a growing chorus of campaign finance reform advocates insist this is their moment … to publicly fund not only presidential elections, but House and Senate races as well."  (emphasis added)

To read more, click the headline.

Filed Under: Blog

An example of the FEC’s broken complaint process

During the 2008 presidential campaign season, I wrote about the unfortunate incentive for political opponents and their supporters to use the FEC’s complaint process to harass opposing candidates.  (See "Using campaign finance law as an electoral sword .")  Last week, the FEC made public an apparent example of that phenomenon.

Specifically, BNA’s "Money & Politics Report" ran a story last Thursday entitled "FEC Deadlocks on Enforcement Matter Charging Romney Got Illegal Contribution."  The "news" highlighted by the story was that the FEC had deadlocked once again in party line votes, thus failing to take any action on a complaint against the Romney campaign and one of his supporters.

But the real news in the story was buried much further down and mentioned almost in passing in describing the complaint.  The report noted: "The FEC did release a copy of the original complaint from Greg Sabine of Brockton, Mass., which cited news stories questioning whether [a] charter flight of Romney supporters [to a ‘national call day’ fundraising event] constituted an illegal [in-kind] contribution."

Now that description piqued my interest, so I took a look at the FEC complaint, and then did a quick Google search on the complainant’s name and "Brockton."  What I found, was what I expected to find — a personally unsupported complaint filed by someone who appeared to have an axe to grind against Romney.

To read more, click the headline.

Filed Under: Blog

Testimony of CCP Research Director Laura Renz to the Illinois Joint Committee on Government Reform

Written testimony of CCP Research & Government Relations Director Laura Renz at a March 16, 2009 hearing of the Illinois Joint Committee on Government Reform on the topic of campaign finance regulation.

Filed Under: Blog, Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits Comments, Contribution Limits State, External Relations Comments and Testimony, External Relations Sub-Pages, State, State Comments and Testimony, Tax Financed Campaigns Comments, Tax Financed Campaigns State, Tax-Financing, campaign contributions, Contribution, Comments and Testimony, Illinois

An interesting philosophical approach to government

We’re not quite sure what to make of the title of this bill, reported out of Senate Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee held an Executive Business Meeting on March 12, 2009, to consider pending legislation and nominations.


I. Bills

S.49, Public Corruption Improvements Act (Leahy, Cornyn, Kaufman)
Ordered Reported, As Amended – Voice Vote

Certainly it’s an interesting approach to government.  We suppose that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Hat tip to our old friend Eric Brown.

Filed Under: Blog

Candidates threatened with fake money to ‘reform’ campaigns

A fellow traveler in the campaign freedom movement pointed out an interesting ‘Ideas’ piece in Politico by Joe Trippi and Lawrence Lessig. This dynamic duo has created a movement they dub "Change Congress" to get like-minded individuals to explicitly pledge to withhold campaign donations to members of Congress until they agree to implement taxpayer-funded campaigns.

We’ve written about this idea many times before.

So-called reformers believe political decisions are mostly based on campaign donations (rather than other factors that have been empirically proven to drive policy, such as party affiliation, long-held ideology, constituent preferences, etc.). Refusing to concede to reality, Lessig and Trippi have geared up their campaign to bribe politicians with the money of activists until they change their mind.

In the Politico piece, Trippi and Lessig have announced they’ve reached the $1 million milestone. Woo hoo! Break out the champagne! But wait, where is that $1 million?


Filed Under: Blog

Testimony of CCP Government & Coalition Relations Director Kristin Meade to Maryland Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee

Written testimony of CCP Government & Coalition Relations Director Kristin Meade at a March 12, 2009 hearing of the Maryland Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee on the topic of clean election.

Filed Under: Blog, External Relations Comments and Testimony, External Relations Sub-Pages, State, State Comments and Testimony, Tax Financed Campaigns Comments, Tax Financed Campaigns State, Tax-Financing, Comments and Testimony, Maryland

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