Privately-funded ‘Clean Elections’ in Ann Arbor?

As regular readers of this blog and followers of the Center can attest, we are not fans of so-called “clean elections” programs like the Fair Elections Now Act, which provide taxpayer funds to politicians to run for office. Our reasons are many and varied: they don’t keep “special interests” out of politics like proponents claim, they don’t change who gets elected to office, they don’t do anything to reduce “corruption” by politicians, they tend to further entrench incumbents — I could go on, but I think you get the point.

That said, I stumbled across this story regarding a novel approach on the “clean elections” issue, one likely to provide none of the benefits that “clean elections” always fail to provide, but this time without wasting taxpayer dollars. The Anne Arbor News (MI) reports:

Leaders in the City of Ann Arbor Democratic Party ( are considering a proposal that would significantly change local campaign funding and help create more primary election contests.

Click here to read more about Ann Arbor Democrats’ private “clean elections” proposal


Filed Under: Blog, Michigan

CCP op-ed in the Washington Examiner on Citizens United

Make sure to check out CCP Chairman Brad Smith’s op-ed in today’s Washington Examiner focusing on the Supreme Court’s rehearing of Citizens United v. FEC in September.

The op-ed is here.

The ending has an important point:

The views of employees, labor union members, or members of groups like state chambers of commerce are vital to a robust debate on issues and candidates. Adding their voices to the mix cannot corrupt our democracy. It would enrich it.

The first few words of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law” are clear: The First Amendment is an absolute protection of speech by everyone — not something that can be amended to suit the agendas of those in power. Hopefully, the Supreme Court holds true to this principle and follows through in overturning both Austin and McConnell after it rehears arguments in Citizens United this fall.

Filed Under: Blog

Chicago Tribune on Failure of Campaign Finance “Reform” in Illinois

Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune featured a story laying out the sordid details of how so-called campaign finance “reform” legislation passed the Illinois legislature. Needless to say, the story has a lot to do with political agendas, partisan posturing, back-room dealings , and self-interest, such as Governor Pat Quinn’s recommendation that candidates for governor not use funds collected  under the old system, which coincidentally would help him in an expected primary challenge next year. In other words, about the norm for how campaign finance “reform” gets handled.

I highly recommend a reading of the whole article, but I just have to point out my favorite line in the article:

“…reformers were armed mostly with the moral authority they had assigned themselves.”

About as insightful a comment as is ever likely to be written about the advocates of campaign finance “reform.”


Filed Under: Blog, Illinois

Michael Dorf on Citizens United v. FEC: Swung On and Missed

Cornell law professor Michael Dorf took a hack at the upcoming reargument in Citizens United v. FEC on his blog yesterday, but unfortunately, missed the pitch.  Professor Dorf attempts to argue that if Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce is overruled, the result would be that the Constitution protected corporate speech but limited labor union speech.  Professor Dorf makes some rather elementary errors of first principle, however, and it’s worth it to head off this argument in the bud.

Click the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog

Campaign Support, Conflicts of Interest, and Judicial Impartiality: Can the Legitimacy of Courts Be Rescued by Recusals?

Many legal scholars and observers perceive elected state courts in the U.S. as under siege by the politicization of judicial elections – most offensively, by accepting campaign contributions and support from organizations litigating before the very judges these groups helped elect. As such, the authors investigate citizen perceptions of the impartiality and legitimacy of courts. They focus on the residents of West Virginia, because that state has recently been a battleground for intense conflict over campaign support and perceived conflicts of interest and loss of impartiality. Through a representative sample of West Virginians, the authors test the hypothesis that recusals can rehabilitate a judge and/or court from perceptions of conflict of interest. Their findings were surprising, particularly in that contributions offered but rejected by the candidate have similar effects to contributions offered and accepted. To conclude, the authors’ apply their findings to the recently decided Caperton v. Massey case. They find that several of the assumptions of the majority in the case are empirically inaccurate, at least from the viewpoint of the citizens of West Virginia.

Filed Under: Faulty Assumptions, Research, campaign contributions, Contribution, Contribution Limits, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Contributions & Limits, Jurisprudence & Litigation, West Virginia

McCain, Feingold on the FEC Warpath

John McCain and Russ Feingold are together again, joining forces this morning to place a “hold” on John Sullivan, a nominee to the Federal Election Commission. The Senators claim that they have no beef with Sullivan. Rather, they are angry that the FEC just isn’t behaving the way they want it to, and so they’re holding onto Sullivan until the President replaces some other FEC commissioners with people more to their liking. It’s a bit as if the Senators were to announce that they won’t vote to seat Judge Sotomayor on the Supreme Court unless Scalia and Alito are replaced, too.

CCP’s release on this development is here.

Senators, of course, have a right and a duty to advise and consent on a president’s nominees, they have a right to withhold their vote, and they have a right to voice their opinion about how any agency should be run.  Still, the idea of holding up one nominee until the President replaces other people in government is a bit extreme, and the type of thing that tends to give Washington a bad name.  It even leads some people to conclude that the government is “corrupt,” in that imprecise way in which the term is so often thrown around these days.

Although they don’t specifically say so, the apparent target of the dynamic duo of reform is Don McGahn, a Republican who has been remarkably successful in leading efforts to alter various FEC enforcement policies and incorrect interpretations. Simply put, McGahn is too good a Commissioner for McCain and Feingold — he is actually effective, which would be fine if he toed the line, but since he doesn’t do the latter, they’ve decided he must go. And when Fred Wertheimer (pictured here, between two unidentified Senators) talks, the Senators jump. As usual, the Senators’ statement is full of platitudes and banalities about how the FEC won’t enforce the law, blah blah blah. The Senators studiously avoid discussing actual policies and cases at the FEC, as that might make their case a bit harder.

Let’s focus on just one case for which McGahn has drawn some heat…

Click here to read more

Filed Under: Blog

Fairly Flawed: Analysis of the 2009 Fair Elections Now Act

This CCP study examines proposed legislation in Congress (H.R. 1826 and S. 752), the “Fair Elections Now Act,” which aims to fund congressional races with taxpayer subsidies. The analysis uses data from states with similar taxpayer financing programs and academic studies to determine whether the proposed program can meet the stated goals in the legislation. It concludes that the program will be both prohibitively expensive and unlikely to meet its stated goals.

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

McCain, Feingold reunite to wage FEC vendetta

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) sent a letter today to Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), as well as other Senate leaders, calling on Sens. McCain and Feingold to end the hold they placed on President Obama’s FEC nominee, labor attorney John J. Sullivan.

“This vindictive move by McCain and Feingold is akin to announcing they won’t vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court unless Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are replaced, too,” said CCP Chairman Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC Chairman.

Filed Under: Press Releases

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