Backlash against Illinois’ incumbent protectionism under the guise of campaign finance “reform”

A few days ago, we noted our objections to the so-called campaign finance “reform” legislation in Illinois that resulted from a compromise between Gov. Pat Quinn and state House and Senate Democrats.  Our biggest critique of the bill was that it blatantly favored the entrenched political leadership at the expense of the people of Illinois.  We said:

“For all the talk of ‘reform’ and ‘reducing corruption,’ the big winners if this compromise legislation is passed will be the incumbent political leadership in Illinois.  Gov. Quinn will face a less competitive primary, and House and Senate leadership will have more leverage to force rank-and-file legislators to do as they’re told.  The big losers will continue to be the people of Illinois, who will have their own ability to participate in the political process limited — through the imposition of contribution limits on individuals and groups — while entrenched politicians solidify their power and influence.”

We are happy to see that the political newspaper of record in Illinois agrees with us.

On Sunday, the State Journal-Register (Springfield, Ill.) published a scathing editorial headlined “Incumbents Take Care of Themselves.”  Not pulling any punches, the newspaper’s view is that the legislation should have been called the “Incumbent Protection Act of 2009” because, through the so-called “reform” legislation, the legislators go after everyone else’s speech and association rights while making sure they “won’t lay a finger on themselves.”

Click here to read more about how Illinois’ political newspaper of record exposed the incumbents’ efforts to serve their own interests under the guise of campaign finance “reform.”

Filed Under: Blog, Illinois

White House revises lobbying restrictions

The White House is changing its misguided lobbying restrictions, but the revision continues the Obama administration’s meaningless demagoguery of lobbying.

Norm Eisen, Obama’s counsel for ethics and government reform, wrote in a blog post Friday that the administration is changing its executive order banning lobbyists from making oral communications on the economic stimlus package. The administration is expanding the oral communications ban to all contacts — not just from registered lobbyists — but is applying the restriction only to the period after the initial application until a grant is awarded.

BNA (subscription required) has analysis and reaction here.

The Center for Competitive Politics was among a wide-ranging coalition of groups opposed to the intial order because the policy had little chance of impacting government reform or curbing corruption. It may not be explicitly unconstitutional, but it shows a lack of respect for (and a realistic understanding of) the ability of individuals and organizations to petition their government, a right provided under the First Amendment. Even the revised regulation implies that there is something inherently corrupting about a conversation from a lobbyist, business owner or union official.

President Obama and Sen. John McCain both used countless public statements and speeches on the campaign trail to demagogue lobbyists because of the corruption of a few individuals out of some 30,000 D.C. lobbyists (who were proscecuted and convicted for breaking the law). This lobbying policy is yet another example of why it’s wrong to use regulation as a politically-popular but ultimately meaningless solution for corruption.

UPDATE: The Womble Carlyle Political Law team posted its thoughts on the revisions, highlighting more nuanced problems and questions the blog post raises.

Filed Under: Blog

Shays a Victim of Campaign Embezzlement – Is it the System?

For well over a decade, Chris Shays fought tirelessly to enact greater restrictions on campaign speech, finally suceeding with the passage of the Shays-Meehan (or “McCain-Feingold”) bill in 2002.  Last fall, Shays lost his seat in Congress.  And now it turns out his campaign is struggling to pay off mounting debts caused by an apparent embezzlement of some $150,000 or more in campaign funds by his longtime campaign manager and “right hand man,” Michael Sohn.

We take no joy in Shays’s misfortune: it’s another black eye for public integrity; it’s created a lot of pain for a man whom, despite our disagreements, we consider an honorable public servant; young Mr. Sohn has almost certainly ruined his life and promising career.  And yet there are a number of lessons to be learned here for the general issue of campaign finance “reform.”

Click the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog

Locking Up Political Speech: How Electioneering Communications Laws Stifle Free Speech and Civic Engagement

Under the guise of campaign finance “reform,” government regulation of political speech has spread far beyond the mere financing of campaigns to monitor and control everyday political speech by ordinary citizens.  The latest wave of such regulation is state and federal laws targeting so-called “electioneering communications.”  The term is most closely associated with the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, and describes broadcast ads that merely mention a federal candidate and that air shortly before an election.  Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that law, states began to follow suit.  Fifteen states now have “electioneering communications” laws, and more are considering them, and most of those laws impose more onerous requirements and cover more political speech than the federal law.

Filed Under: Independent Speech, Issue Advocacy, Research, Florida

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