In this article, Allison Hayward examines the impetus behind a 1948 decision by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute a Flint businessman for making illegal corporate contributions and the legacy of what transpired. Ultimately, lawyers on both sides questioned the legality of the “corruption” laws, and the case ended without a single conviction. The tenacity of the DOJ in its quest to make convictions is of great interest to Hayward throughout this piece, which she eventually proves was unwarranted. The results beg the question: why weren’t campaign finance laws enforced before the Voter Registration Act of 1974? Using this case as context, Hayward thoroughly overviews campaign finance regulations before 1974 and provides an interesting look at campaign finance regulation in its infancy.
The Michigan Auto Dealers Prosecution: Exploring The Department of Justice’s Mid-Century Posture Toward Campaign Finance Violations
As political campaigns have become more expensive and sophisticated, Congress has increasingly regulated them, yet the Supreme Court has declared many aspects of that regulation unconstitutional. Recently, in Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church of East Helena, Inc. v. Unsworth, the Ninth Circuit continued this deregulatory trend by holding that Montana’s election contribution disclosure requirements were unconstitutional as applied to de minimis campaign expenditures. Though the bureaucratic disclosure requirements of the regulation at issue may chill speech, an effect that the court correctly recognized, another feature of the regulation may chill speech even more: its third-party enforcement mechanism. Because the regulation allows third parties to bring complaints of campaign rule breaking, enforcement against minor parties may spring from questionable motives, result in disproportionate burdens, and ultimately militate against the public interest. Thus, whether using the information interest regulation rationale as a pretext for harassment or for mere democracy, such third-party enforcement of campaign disclosure requirements is problematic. This enforcement is especially troublesome given such laws’ disproportionate impact on minor players. Policymakers should recognize this issue when crafting disclosure laws, perhaps by raising the floor for disclosure of contributions when disclosure is urged by a third-party complainant.
In this analysis piece, the authors examine the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA) currently meandering its way through Congress. The article begins with a comprehensive breakdown of FENA and its components, with a focus on differentiating between the Senate and House versions of the bill. After explaining the bill, the authors reveal multiple Constitutional issues with provisions of the bill as written. This analysis sheds light on a bounty of flaws with the FENA legislation.
The Center for Competitive Politics will host a panel discussion Thurs., April 8 on Capitol Hill to address the state of campaign finance policy after Citizens United as mid-term elections approach.
Beltway publications-including Politico, The Hill and the Bureau of National Affairs-have reported that Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) plan to introduce their long-simmering campaign finance legislation soon after the congressional recess. The duo released a framework for a post-Citizens United bill in February. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) has also introduced legislation that would mandate advance shareholder approval of political spending.
A panel representing diverse interests and views will discuss the range of congressional policy options for campaign finance regulation: As other major campaign finance cases-such as SpeechNow.org v. FEC and RNC v. FEC-potentially head to the Supreme Court, are the proposals in the Schumer-Van Hollen framework constitutional? Should shareholders and labor union members be required to approve political spending? Should restrictions on candidates and parties-like contribution limits and coordination rules-be eased to allow campaigns to more effectively respond to spending by businesses, unions and other groups?
Panelists include Sean Parnell, President of the Center for Competitive Politics; Scott Thomas, Of Counsel at Dickstein Shapiro and former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission; James Portnoy, Chief Counsel of Corporate & Government Affairs at Kraft Foods, Inc. and former Democratic General Counsel of the House Administration Committee; and Meredith McGehee, Policy Director at the Campaign Legal Center.
The event, from noon to 1 p.m. in Room B-340 of the Rayburn House Office Building, will be moderated by Louis Jacobson, Staff Writer for PolitiFact.com, a Pulitzer Prize-winning project of the St. Petersburg Times.
A buffet-style bag lunch will be provided. To RSVP, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: RSVPs will be accepted up until the event. Please RSVP as soon as possible so we can provide an accurate head count for the lunch.
The Center for Competitive Politics is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending First Amendment political rights.
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