Tennessee bill flouts Supreme Court campaign finance ruling

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) sent a letter to Tennessee legislators today regarding a bill that directly challenges the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Senate Bill 3672 would prohibit incorporated entities from spending money from their general treasuries on independent expenditures-political ads advocating for or against state candidates. The Supreme Court expressly forbade such bans on this type of political speech in Citizens United.

“Passing this bill would require the state to waste precious resources defending the misguided law in court, a challenge it will ultimately lose,” said CCP Research and Government Relations Director Laura Renz. “We encourage Volunteer State legislators to not waste further time and constituent tax dollars considering this restriction on Tennesseans’ First Amendment rights.”

CCP is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization formed by former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley A. Smith to promote and protect the First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly and petition.

Filed Under: External Relations Press Releases, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases

Amendments to Iowa campaign finance bill would chill political speech

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) sent a letter to Iowa legislators today detailing constitutional and policy concerns regarding proposed campaign finance legislation.

The bill, Senate File 2354, passed the state Senate overwhelmingly but state Representatives have proposed several anti-speech amendments to the pending legislation. Additionally, a drafting error seems to have retained problematic language on shareholder regulation that an amendment by lead sponsor Sen. Jeff Danielson supposedly removed.

One amendment would disqualify businesses that make independent expenditures proposals from receiving tax credits-and punish companies that dare to speak on politics and candidates by rescinding such tax credits. Another amendment would impose taxes on contributions and independent expenditures made by companies.

“Basing the receipt of tax credits on political activity is state-sponsored punishment of free speech,” wrote CCP President Sean Parnell. “This burden is unlikely to be met with sympathy in court, where regulation of political speech is permitted only to prevent real or perceived corruption-something that does not exist when an independent group or person spends money independent of a candidate.”

Filed Under: External Relations Press Releases, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases

First Amendment group criticizes Vermont campaign finance proposals

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) sent a letter to Vermont legislators today detailing concerns with a campaign finance bill that would restrict the free speech rights of independent groups.

Senate Bill 294 is pending in the state Senate. The bill restricts the First Amendment political rights by requiring extensive and burdensome disclaimer statements on political advertisements that infringe on the amount of time a candidate or political committee can spend conveying their message, effectively establishing limits on the amount of speech that may take place.

This bill would require speakers to include “information in disclaimers that serve no useful purpose and will ultimately diminish the amount of political speech rather than enlighten the average citizen,” CCP Research & Government Relations Director Laura Renz wrote. “Beyond clear and concise disclosure of who is funding a particular advertisement, no additional disclaimer is required and the state risks a costly and unnecessary legal battle over the constitutionality of superfluous disclaimer laws.”

Filed Under: External Relations Press Releases, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases, State, State Press Releases and Blogs

Excellent observation on Citizens United buried in misinformation and bad ideas

Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post, normally a business reporter, last week ventured into the complicated and arcane waters of campaign finance regulation, and promptly fell in well over his head.

In an online column, Ahrens attempts to address the Citizens United decision as it relates to corporate spending in elections. Unfortunately, by the second paragraph he is floundering:

The decision means that now, corporations and unions can express their free speech by donating directly to political candidates.

No, no, a thousand times no. The Citizens United decision freed up corporations, unions, advocacy groups, and other associations to spend independently of candidates urging their defeat or election, not to make contributions directly to candidates. The law banning direct corporate contributions, the Tillman Act (one of the two lasting legacies of “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, the other legacy of course being Jim Crow), is still alive and well, as are those sections of the Taft-Hartley Act banning similar contributions from unions.

Filed Under: Blog

Life After Citizens United (updated March 22)

Filed Under: In the News

Hoersting joins PRI’s panel on Citizens United

Today’s discussion on Public Radio International’s “To the Point” program featured a diverse range of views —including CCP’s Steve Hoersting—on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United and its implications for politics and campaign finance.

From the show’s description:

The US Supreme Court: Free Speech and Money in Politics (12:07PM)

The US Supreme Court has taken the limits off campaign spending by corporations and unions. Has that liberated a major cause of corruption? Critics say public policy is for sale in Congress, and that unlimited special-interest spending will make things worse for both Liberals and Conservatives. Defenders say corporations and unions have rights of free speech, like people.  Does that mean they can run for office? One corporation has already declared its candidacy. We talk about issues at the heart of Americans’ declining confidence in their government.


  • Lawrence Lessig: Director, Harvard University’s Safra Foundation Center for Ethics
  • Steve Hoersting: Vice President, Center for Competitive Politics
  • Eric Hensal: ‘Designated Human,’ Murry Hill Inc for Congress campaign
  • Ken Vogel: Senior Reporter, Politico.com

Listen or download the Santa Monica-based program: “Hosted by Warren Olney, To the Point is a fast-paced, news based one-hour daily national program that focuses on the hot-button issues of the day, co-produced by KCRW and Public Radio International.”

Filed Under: Blog, California

Unity ’08 Lives!

We’re a bit late in finding some time to comment on Unity08, the non-party political party that scored a surprising victory over the Federal Election Commission in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia earlier this month.  It is an important case, because, as the Unity08 organizers had found, under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (“McCain-Feingold”) it had been made de facto illegal to start a new national political party in the U.S.  Unity08 v. FEC thus is the latest in a series of federal court opinions to reassert the primacy of political speech and association under the First Amendment.

Filed Under: Blog

Changes proposed for state’s lobbying and campaign finance laws


Filed Under: In the News

“Half true”: Axelrod says Supreme Court ruling enables lobbyists to threaten lawmakers

Filed Under: In the News

League of Women Censors

In a letter to the Washington Post, League of Women Voters President Mary Wilson praises President Obama for his public criticism of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC.  After making some counterfactual observations about how everyone just knows that “unregulated cash” will pretty much destroy democracy, Wilson, whose organization favored censoring Citizens United, writes, “Buck up, Mr. Chief Justice. Occasionally there are some things you really need to hear.”

The Chief, you may recall, said, in response to a question at a speech at the University of Alabama, “anybody can criticize the Supreme Court without any qualm.  Some people, I think, have an obligation to criticize what we do, given their office, if they think we’ve done something wrong.”  But he did add that the State of the Union may be a little too partisan a political event for it to be appropriate for the justices to attend in the future. 

It occurs to us that that comment pretty well sums up the difference between Chief Justice Roberts and Ms. Wilson.  The Chief Justice is prepared to let people speak, and to take criticism, and if he doesn’t think the manner appropriate, to go elsewhere.  But when Ms. Wilson and the League of Women Voters don’t like what other people say, they argue that those speakers should be silenced.

Filed Under: Blog

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