Party censors in Iowa

Top officials at Iowa’s Democratic and Republican parties are responding to two instances of political speech in remarkably similar ways — threatening litigation, government investigations and other intimidation tactics.

The first case involves a flyer critical of former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, a rumored potential candidate for governor in 2010.

Jeff Boeyink, the Republican Party of Iowa’s executive director, told state media he plans to ask the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board to investigate the organization supposedly behind the flyer. Iowa has relatively strict independent expenditure filing guidelines, requiring groups to submit to government regulation — which usually requires retaining a lawyer — if they spend over $100 on a direct mailing, brochure or ad.

Filed Under: Blog

Goldwater Institute on Citizens United v. FEC

In this video clip, Nick Dranias of the Goldwater Institute talks about Citizens United v. FEC on an Arizona television station. The clip is embedded after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog v. FEC filing

CCP and the Institute for Justice, which are representing in its case against the FEC, filed an appellate brief today in federal court. For more details, read CCP’s release here.

Filed Under: Blog

Independent political speech again in danger in Florida

Florida lawmakers are again trying to restrict the political speech of independent political groups, soon after a federal judge struck down a state “electioneering communications” law.

CCP detailed the May court decision here.

Now, a well-connected lobbyist and former House speaker is complaining that independent groups are airing ads critical of his record, so he’s seeking to silence them by forcing them to reveal their donors and contend with other government regulation, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The incoming House speaker urges lawmakers to simply disregard the Court’s ruling and write a new law:

“I think we should definitely make it a priority to put transparency back into the political campaigning, especially with these ECOs,” says Cannon, who as the incoming speaker will oversee 2010 GOP House races.

Campaign finance disclosure is meant for citizens to be able to keep track of their government, not for government and powerful political candidates to monitor and intimidate their opponents.

Hopefully, Florida lawmakers will realize this and stop their misguided campaign against free political speech.

Filed Under: Blog asks D.C. Circuit to let it speak in coming election season has already missed one election season thanks to overbearing and overly burdensome campaign finance regulations-and a federal court that failed to uphold its First Amendment rights by refusing to block enforcement of those laws. Today, the group is asking the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to ensure it does not miss another opportunity to speak by granting it a preliminary injunction.

Filed Under: Press Releases

Citizens United reply briefs filed

The simultaneous reply briefs in Citizens United v. FEC by Citizens United and the government were filed today.

Citizens United’s brief is available here and the government’s brief is available here (via SCOTUS Blog).

Rick Hasen posted his initial thoughts on his Election Law Blog. He doesn’t think the government’s argument in their reply brief is going to fly:

The CU brief pounds the government for its failure in its opening supplemental brief to defend the anti-distortion rationale of Austin (a point I raised originally here). It says the government has “abandoned” this rationale. For its part, the government’s supplemental reply brief brief tries very hard to recast the Austin anti-distortion/equality rationale into a shareholder protection rationale. I don’t think the attempt succeeds, because the language of Austin is not susceptible to this reading.

Filed Under: Blog

The paradox of ‘clean elections’

Political parties in Maine are brawling over changes to the state’s Clean Election Fund, according to the Augusta Insider, showcasing that campaign finance “reform” usually has more to do with incumbent politicians finding ways to assert and maintain power than curbing corruption.

Changes to Maine’s Clean Elections Fund proposed by House Speaker Hannah Pingree are designed “to make the system more attractive for major-party candidates,” The Portland Phoenix recently reported [emphasis added].

The changes would require qualifying candidates to raise at least 3,250 contributions of at least $5 instead of 2,500 and add a requirement of at least $40,000 in donations of up to $100 to ensure that taxpayer money only goes to “viable” candidates.

This gambit exposes a critical flaw of “clean elections.” Control of the system is invariably in the hands of incumbent politicians, who control the purse strings and decide who receives taxpayer money. Set the bar too high and incumbents can freeze out challengers to whom they’d rather not hand out government money. Set the bar too low and every basement blogger-activist can qualify for a taxpayer handout to spout off on the need for alien research funding.

The solution to the problem of “clean elections” is campaign finance reform: just not the failed “reform” of taxpayer financed campaigns. In Maine, it’s time to scrap the Clean Elections Fund and allow candidates to raise unlimited funds for governor and other races.

Filed Under: Blog

RTAO asks for full Fourth Circuit hearing

The Real Truth About Obama (“RTAO”) has asked a full panel of the U.S. Fourth Circuit to rehear an appeal after a three-judge panel upheld the denial of a preliminary injunction that would have allowed RTAO to engage in issue ads focused on then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

James Bopp, Jr., RTAO’s counsel, issued a statement on the filing:

“The Fourth Circuit in North Carolina Right to Life v. Leake set out a clear constitutional analysis that brought order to much of the chaos in campaign-finance law. By not following this binding precedent, the appellate panel in the present case created confusion and chilled free political speech. The full Fourth Circuit should rehear this appeal to remove the confusion, protect free speech, and comply with binding United States Supreme Court precedent.”

The rest of the release can be found on the website of the James Madison Center for Free Speech.

Filed Under: Blog

Paging Fred Wertheimer 3.0

Last week, Roll Call published a profile of Americans for Campaign Reform’s Daniel Weeks, calling him Fred Wertheimer 2.0 (apparantly a compliment).

Weeks, though, took an indirect shot at Wertheimer:

Weeks said “from the start” reformers have been too aligned with “left-of-center” political ideology, which has discouraged possible conservative allies from affiliating themselves with a liberal-leaning cause.

I wonder if he’s talking about quotes like this, from Tribune Newspaper’s Sunday story on Citizens United v. FEC:

“Banks like Citicorp, investment firms like Merrill Lynch and insurance companies like AIG would be free to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of their corporate wealth to directly support the election of federal officeholders who do their legislative bidding and to directly oppose (those) who refused to carry out their wishes,” Wertheimer said.

Filed Under: Blog

PIRG’s ‘Democracy Advocates’

The most annoying thing in a recent blog post from a PIRG staffer wasn’t her breathless criticism of corporations, which she likens roughly to vampires. It’s the irritating habit of the PIRG writer insisting on calling herself perhaps the most ridiculously euphemistic term for lobbyist: “Democracy Advocate.”

When I covered lobbying for Politico, PIRG lobbyists would insist on being quoted as “Democracy Advocates” instead of lobbyists or even something bland and common like government relations director (I demurred, in case you were wondering, and went with “of U.S. PIRG”).

It’s PIRG’s subtle way of saying, “We’re better than everyone else. You see, we’re not really lobbyists — even though we have nine federally-registered lobbyists on staff in 2009. We’re do-gooders fighting for the public interest and good government, and our opponents are just sleazy, corporate-funded hacks fighting against democracy.”

Filed Under: Blog

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