SpeechNow.org amici update

BNA: Money & Politics Report ($) has this update in SpeechNow.org v. FEC:

A case set for a January argument before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has drawn requests for participation through friend-of-the court briefs from nearly a dozen nonprofit groups interested in campaign finance law, indicating the case’s potential importance to the future of election campaigns (SpeechNow.org v. FEC, D.C. Cir., No. 09-5342, argument scheduled 10/26/09; 2626 Money & Politics Report, 10/27/09).

The Center for Competitive Politics and the Institute for Justice are representing SpeechNow.org in its challenge of FEC regulations on independent group.


Filed Under: Blog

USA Today on potential impact of Citizens United in 2010

USA Today quotes CCP Chairman Brad Smith on the potential impact of Citizens United v. FEC on state campaigns in 2010:

Others, such as campaign-finance expert Bradley Smith, say the ruling’s effects could be limited, in part, because publicly held companies — sensitive to stockholder and customer concerns — could stay on the sidelines. “We think more speech would be a good thing,” added Smith, head of the Center for Competitive Politics, which favors less regulation.

The story, unfortunately, conflates state laws on independent expenditures and contributions in predicting the potential consequences of a broad, free speech-affirming decision in Citizens United. Citizens United is about independent expenditures in support of — or opposing — a candidate (in this instance, a movie paid for by a conservative group critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton). While state laws concerning corporate or union direct contributions may tangentially be related to Citizens United, the fact is that any decision in Citizens United will only impact state laws on independent expenditures — not direct contributions.

Filed Under: Blog

Supreme Court ruling could play in 2010 governor’s races

Filed Under: In the News

SCOTUS denies cert in Independence Institute v. Buescher

The Institute for Justice recently asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a Colorado campaign finance law that silinces nonprofit policy organizations, preventing them from speaking out on political issues. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court denied their petition today in Independence Institute v. Buescher.

Today’s press release from the Institute for Justice has more:

“You’re not supposed to have to register with the government before you can express a political view, yet that is what this decision now mandates in Colorado,” said Steve Simpson, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. “This is a dangerous precedent that we will work to overturn until we have the kind of free, open and robust public discussions the First Amendment was designed to protect.”

Filed Under: Blog, Colorado

USA Today parrots ‘reform’ line on FENA

Today’s USA Today editorial basically alleges that defense contracts can be bought via donations to a political campaign. The paper uses this wholly unproven conjecture to advance the case for taxpayer financed political campaigns, the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA), in its uphill battle in Congress.

Congress considered testimony at a July hearing before the House Administration Committee on FENA.  Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Brad Smith testified, explaining FENA’s myriad flaws. CCP also published “Fairly Flawed: Analysis of the 2009 Fair Elections Now Act” in July.

Groups that support a bailout of politicians’ campaigns point to congressional corruption and earmark abuse as a reason to force taxpayers to donate to campaigns, but the issue is almost always another form of corruption: honest services fraud, bribery or tax evasion. Past cases of earmark abuse in Congress almost always involve bribery (not campaign contributions), which is of course already illegal. So FENA’s sponsors must attempt to convince Americans that every campaign contribution is equivalent to a criminal conspiracy.

Filed Under: Blog

Is There a Constitutional Right to Sign a Petition Anonymously?

Filed Under: In the News

Caperton goes down for the count

On November 13, for the third time, the West Virginia Supreme Court threw out the verdict of Harmon Mining against Massey Coal. It was this decision that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., holding that in extreme circumstances, extensive independent spending in a judicial election campaign could require a state judge to recuse himself from manners related to the spender. The decision stretched recusal standards and the due process clause in new and troublesome directions, and appears to have been based in part on misleading and poorly informed press coverage.

Today, with Justice Brent Benjamin having recused himself from the case as required by the Caperton decision, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled, for yet a third time, against Caperton. 

There’s an old line that goes, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.” That would seem to apply with slight variation to Caperton. Just because Caperton and the campaign finance lobby was paranoid, it doesn’t mean that Massey Coal didn’t have a better case on the law.

Filed Under: Blog, West Virginia

Congrats to Bob Bauer on his appointment as White House counsel

Congratulations to Perkins Coie Partner Bob Bauer on his appointment as White House counsel. The Center for Competitive Politics has occasionally clashed with Bauer on campaign finance issues, but he has often been a voice of reason and restraint among those pushing stricter campaign finance regulation. His campaign finance blog, Soft Money Hard Law, was a must-read, providing insightful analysis of campaign finance issues. Bauer, President Obama’s personal and campaign lawyer — as well as DNC general counsel, is expected to start his new position by the end of the year.

The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder has this tidbit from a “senior administration official,” a reminder that politics, as much as any other factor, is just as influential in determining how incumbent lawmakers and presidents craft campaign finance regulations:

“Bob’s expertise in election law isn’t just relevant so we can write great briefs in litigation. As we enter 2010, having clear rules of the road on what the White House and its staff can and cannot do to help Democratic candidates will become a critical aspect of the White House Counsel’s job — and there’s no lawyer in America who knows that better than Bob,” a senior administration official said. “Such skill is even more critical as we approach 2012 — and — here’s the wild card — if the Supreme Court does major violence to the campaign finance regulation regime (as most observers expect by June), then deciding how to try to rewrite those laws, or what to do in the wild west regime that will replace current law, will be a critical task. And who better to have on point than Bob Bauer.”

Filed Under: Blog

Apple rejects iPhone app for ‘content that ridicules public figures’

Apple has banned an iPhone application because it “contains content that ridicules public figures.” Apple’s actions don’t violate the letter of the First Amendment but they certainly violate the spirit of free political expression.

The application’s illustrator, Tom Richmond, is a cartoonist for Mad Magazine. He drew a caricature of every U.S. Senator and Representative (540 in all, including non-voting delegates from D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam) for an iPhone application that would allow people to contact their representatives.

Apple rejected the idea, some would say because of a wariness to offend powerful lawmakers.

Filed Under: Blog

Massey victorious as controversial $50M case comes to end in W.Va.

Filed Under: In the News

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