Bauer on FEC “deadlocks”

Bob Bauer’s latest public comments — rare since his blog retirement — focus on the meaning of recent “deadlocks” at the FEC.

As usual, Bauer’s comments are thoughtful, thorough and mostly agnostic on whether or not the deadlocks pose a monumental problem as most in the “reform” community charge. Bauer, doesn’t buy the line from those in the pro-regulation camp that Republican commissioners are being rampantly partisan or refusing to uphold the law. Rather, Bauer writes, the Republican commissioners are engaging in a concerted effort to respect the First Amendment and not implement uneccesary regulations or investigations.

How horrible!

Bauer doesn’t necessarily agree with the Republican commissioners, but he doesn’t demagogue the issue.

We will have review and comment on Bauer’s presentation forthcoming in the next few days.


Filed Under: Blog

National Journal on

Yesterday, National Journal‘s “Rules of the Game” column featured an update on campaign finance litigation by CCP and other groups.

According to National Journal, “conservatives who champion the First Amendment” — side note, we think no one should object to “champion[ing] the First Amendment — “have mounted more than 20 challenges to election laws in both federal and state court recently, according to a recent analysis (er, rant) by the Campaign Legal Center.”

The piece references v. FEC, a case brought by an upstart independent political speech organization that can’t get off the ground without adequate funding, so it is being legally represented in its constitutional challenge to regulation by the Federal Election Commission by CCP and the Institute for Justice. Factual briefing in the case has been completed, and it’s now before a federal district judge, who will collect the factual record and certify the constitutional questions at issue before sending the case up to the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The National Journal‘s story is a bit off;’s claims do not raise any question about the constitutionality of limiting — indeed, even prohibiting, as federal law does — corporate- or union-funded express advocacy. Rather, is an organization of like-minded individuals who simply want to pool their own funds and use eachothers’ talents to speak out about how their elected representatives have respected, or disrespected, Americans’ First Amendment rights to free political speech and association.

From its very founding, has made it clear that it will not accept any corporate or union donations, and that it also will not interact with candidates and public officials at all — other than to comment on how they address the First Amendment rights of their constituents. In other words, is precisely the type of organization that raises no possibility of corruption or its appearance, and thus constitutionally cannot be subject to FEC regulation as a “political committee.”

(click here to read more)

Filed Under: Blog

Taxpayer funded rebranding

A group recently formed by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has crossed the line by using taxpayer resources to promote a political party.

Cantor’s National Council for a New America recently held an event at an Arlington, Va. pizza parlor with Cantor, 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romey and former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush. The event was paid for with money from Cantor’s campaign fund, but other operations of the group appear to be funded with taxpayer dollars.

According to an editorial and a story in Roll Call (subscription required)

… leadership aides on Cantor’s House staff, paid by taxpayers, do the lion’s share of the organization’s work. The NCNA’s Web site,, was designed by a House staffer and directs visitors immediately to Cantor’s leadership Web site — all taxpayer-funded. {GOP ethics attorney Jan] Baran and Cantor’s deputy chief of staff, Rob Collins, say the NCNA is organized as an “informal caucus” of House and Senate Members that is permitted to use House resources because “this is not the sole function of anyone in [Cantor’s] office.”

Republicans are certainly allowed to make every effort to rebrand after a drubbing in the past two election cylces, but they should use private funds for party cheerleading, not taxpayer dollars and staff.

The group may narrowly comply with the letter of House ethics guidelines by organizing the outfit as an “informal” caucus of House and Senate members, but GOP officials shouldn’t expect taxpayers to fund what is clearly a political movement.

Filed Under: Blog

Decision day in North Carolina

North Carolina’s crossover deadline is approaching today, meaning that any bill that hasn’t passed at least one chamber is dead through the full session. NC S.336, which would repeal the matching funds provision within North Carolina’s existing taxpayer financed campaign program, has been stalled in committee. See CCP Chairman Brad Smith’s letter for the John Locke Foundation to get details of our argument as to why the committee should hear NC S.336.

The letter is below:

Download file Brad Smith’s letter to the John Locke Foundation

Filed Under: Blog, North Carolina

Fair Elections Now Act and Aristotle’s theory of falling objects

Many years ago (more than I care to think about or admit), in my high school physics class I was taught the apocryphal story of how Galileo Galilei disproved Aristotle’s theory regarding the speed at which objects fell. Without going into excruciating detail, Aristotle had determined that an object twice as heavy as another would fall twice as fast. With a little experimentation, Galileo tested Aristotle’s theory and found it to be false, allegedly by dropping balls of different weights off the leaning Tower of Pisa.

The difference between Aristotle and Galileo, it turns out, was that one went beyond theories and attempted to determine if those theories actually worked in the real world.

I was thinking of this story on Friday, listening to speaker after speaker at the Brennan Center’s Money in Politics conference extol the virtues of the Fair Elections Now Act, which would provide taxpayer dollars to candidates running for Congress. Needless to say, there was lots of hope based on the theories of so-called campaign finance “reform,” namely that getting private money out of politics would lead to all sorts of wonderful things – less “special interest” influence, more candidates of non-traditional backgrounds getting elected, different public policy outcomes on important votes, and so forth.

Click here to read more about the Aristotle v. Galileo nature of campaign finance “reform”

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‘The regulators are coming!’

Politico featured an interesting story today noting comments from White House ethics lawyer Norm Eisen at Reformapalooza — better known as the “Money in Politics 2009: New Horizons for Reform” conference hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice.

Politico reports:

Eisen, a law school classmate of Obama who volunteered for his presidential campaign, said “having witnessed the small donor revolution taking place firsthand over the past two years, I will point out that … like that other great revolution that resulted in our presence here today — the American Revolution — a revolution can take a long time to institutionalize and to bear fruit.”

A reality check is in order. As the story also notes, there was not a monumental revolution of small donors in the 2008 presidential race. Small donors to Obama’s campaign represented 26 percent of Obama’s $750 million haul — one percent more than small donors to the 2004 campaign of President George W. Bush. There’s also no evidence congressional campaigns, lacking the celebrity of Obama, could depend on small donors to remain viable.

“The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama’s finances,” said Campaign Finance Institute executive director Michael Malbin, after his organization released a study of donors in 2008. “The reality of Obama’s fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth.”

Yet, campaign finance “reformers,” want to implement a public financing system for congressional elections based on this small donor “revolution.” Congressional sponsors, backed by pro-regulation groups, want to pressure congressional candidates to limit donors to $100, thereby leveraging taxpayer financing for their campaigns. Such a system would be heavily skewed in favor of incumbents, who enjoy easy access to media, high name recognition and perks like franked mail.

It’s enough to make political freedom fighters saddle up and race through New England towns proclaiming, “The regulators are coming!”

Filed Under: Blog

Arizona’s clean elections campaign finance reform champion not so clean?

Last week I wrote about Doug Quelland, a Republican state legislator in Arizona who is in danger of having the Arizona Clean Elections Commission nullify the voters’ decision and toss him out for allegedly failing to comply with the rules of Arizona’s so-called clean elections program. In that post I wrote about my concerns regarding this effort to deny the voters in Arizona’s 10th District the person they elected to office.

Those concerns remain, but yesterday I saw a news article on the case that adds an interesting (amusing?) twist to the story – Doug Quelland, you see, is described in this article as a “champion” of the “clean elections” program. He is also described as someone in hot water over his apparently false testimony to the Clean Elections Commission:

Clean Elections champion under scrutiny over contract

New evidence presented to the state’s Clean Elections Commission appears to contradict a key defense of state Rep. Doug Quelland in a case that could cost him thousands of dollars in fines and possible loss of his seat.

Click here for more on Doug Quelland, “champion” of “clean elections”

Filed Under: Blog, Arizona

Gaming protection for political contributions

Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a state law that banned essentially all political contributions from anyone with any link to the gaming industry.

Specifically, Pennsylvania’s High Court ruled 5-1 that “a wholesale banning of political contributions” — even when those contributions are given by those who are directly or indirectly connected to gambling — is “impermissible when read in light of the legislative purpose of addressing the impact of large contributions on public confidence and trust.”

So, what fix do a couple of state legislators have in mind now?  Well, according to Philadelphia Inquirer, State Representatives Curt Schroder (R-Chester) and Michael O’Brien (D-Philadelphia) said Monday that “they believe they have found a way to reinstate the restriction and protect it from future constitutional challenges … merely by putting a line through just one word: ‘large.'”

To read more about how these legislators plan to game the legislation to continue to ban all political contributions tied to the gaming industry, click the headline.

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Meet the New “Localism,” same as the Old “Fairness Doctrine”

James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, who normally writes on national security issues, had an op-ed in the Washington Examiner yesterday that addressed the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” in talk radio and efforts to bring it back under the guise of “localism.”

A few excerpts:

The [Fairness Doctrine]… was anything but fair. It provided no clear standard for determining what was “controversial.” It was also hard to figure out who represented the “sides,” since many controversial topics inspire far more than two viewpoints.

 With all this uncertainty, the doctrine wound up having a chilling effect on free speech. It dissuaded broadcasters from tackling tough subjects at all, out of fear it would get them crosswise of some unelected regulator, who would then yank their license. 

During the Reagan era, the FCC repealed the most egregious parts of the doctrine-and conservative talk radio was born. Now Washington wants it back.

Click here read more about the “Fairness Doctrine” (as a bonus, some great political music too!)

Filed Under: Blog

Franked mail and ‘leveling the playing field’

One of the most prominent arguments of so-called campaign finance reformers is that regulations are needed — such as contribution limits and taxpayer financed campaigns — to “level the playing field.”

What’s left out — beyond the fact that “leveling the playing field” is a constitutionally invalid reason for campaign finance regulation — are other assets to a campaign that cannot be so easily leveled.

Take, for instances, one of the many perks of incumbency: franked mail.

A story in Monday’s Roll Call ($) explains that next year, the House of Representatives’ Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) has requested a huge increase in the budget for franked mail, which allows members of Congress to send glossy literature to constituents touting their accomplishments (similar to campaign literature).

… [the CAO] asked appropriators to raise the Members’ Representational Allowances — which fund everything needed to run offices, including salaries, travel and supplies — by $90 million, citing increases “due to the election year cycle.”

“In an election year the expenditures increase and then decrease in a non-election year,” the request reads.

The fiscal 2010 request includes an extra $16 million for franked mail — an 80 percent increase from fiscal 2009. The stated reason: Members send more mail to their constituents during an election year.

(click here to read more)

Filed Under: Blog

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