FPPC expands express advocacy regulation

As expected, Dan Schnur announced today that the era of “magic words” in California is over.

At a Fair Political Practices Commission hearing commissioners voted to direct staff to craft a regulation that would interpret the definition of “express advocacy”—ads containing an appeal to vote for or against a candidate—as including the “functional equivalent” of express advocacy.

As CCP has explained, Schnur’s reasoning is “fundamentally flawed.”

Filed Under: Blog, California

The High Cost of Free Speech



Filed Under: In the News

MoveOn.org “reformers” mask legal requirement as virtue

Today I learned via e-mail that there will be a “rally” in Albany, New York to urge Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to “Fight Corporate Corruption of Washington” (curious italicization choices in the original). The message appears to be part of a nationwide campaign led by MoveOn (formerly MoveOn.org, of course) to push for a handful of campaign finance and ethics “reform” measures. Other organizations supporting today’s “rallies” (you’ll see why I’m using quotation marks around that term in just a second) include the Service Employees International Union, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, and Democracy for America.

The release breathlessly announces that “Over 100 folks have already signed up” (114 according to this MoveOn site) for the Albany, New York event today.

The site also reveals that there are 167 similar events across the country today, and typing in random zip codes from across the country would seem to indicate that attendance at most will amount to tens and tens of citizens. A handful of events have managed to make it past 100 in the number of people signed up to attend, but there are more with expected participants in single digits.

These numbers would seem to fall somewhat short of expectations for a rally that proclaims that it represents the 98 percent of Americans who aren’t corporations (I’m not sure exactly what they mean by that, but then neither do they I’d wager). Using the term “rally” to describe the 11 registered attendees for today’s event at 255 E. Temple Street in Los Angeles seems not quite right, though. Ditto for the three individuals scheduled to show up at Representative Joe Wilson’s office in West Columbia, South Carolina, and the seven hardy souls signed up to go to Senator Olympia Snowe’s office in Augusta, Maine also seems to not quite justify the “rally” designation.  Maybe “basketball team with a couple of subs” would be a better descriptor?

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Money in Politics, Maine

Rules for Radical Election Change

The Center for Competitive Politics is pleased to offer this guest blog post by Tara Ross


Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose. . . . [M]aintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

Straightforward advice from a liberal icon of a bygone era. Saul Alinsky doubtless intended to change the world, but one has to wonder if even he would be surprised at how far his “Rules for Radicals” have strayed from their roots in local Chicago politics. Today, some of his principles even seem poised to eliminate an institution that was once thought to be untouchable without a constitutional amendment: the Electoral College.

Perhaps Alinsky would not be surprised at the rapid changes that have overtaken our nation in the past few years. Multiple crises have been generated. The opposition has been hit from many angles, simultaneously. No one can focus on or respond to everything at once. And now, in the midst of health care debates, financial regulatory changes, climate and energy crises, and massive tax and spending conflicts, arrives a little-noticed effort to turn the Electoral College into a relic of history, threatening to effectively nullify part of the Constitution if action is not taken to defend it.

Filed Under: Blog

Tax financing program challenged in Maine

Yesterday, CCP detailed developments across the country affecting tax financed campaign programs. Challenges to these systems are proceeding in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida and Wisconsin (where CCP is challenging the judicial program).

Today, the James Madison Center for Free Speech, run by campaign finance lawyer James Bopp, Jr., sends word that it’s representing a group of plaintiffs challenging Maine’s system.

As in the other state’s, Maine provides additional government funding to participating candidates when they’re outspend by candidates who decline the taxpayer subsidies.

Filed Under: Blog, Maine

Obama bows to ‘reform’ obstruction, withdraws Sullivan for FEC

President Obama has withdrawn the nomination of John J. Sullivan for a seat on the Federal Election Commission, yielding to pressure from groups supportive of campaign finance regulation that criticized Sullivan.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), encouraged by “reform” groups, placed an informal hold on Sullivan last July. After more than a year of limbo—following unanimous approval by the Senate Rules Committee—it seems Sullivan decided to move on.

“Pro-regulation groups have succeeded in blocking a supremely qualified nominee to the Federal Election Commission simply because they disagreed with his work as an attorney for a client,” said Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Bradley A. Smith. “These groups don’t care about good government or the law, they just want someone on the FEC who will toe their anti-speech line.”

Sullivan had broad, bipartisan support, but his nomination was scuttled to appease a consortium of interest groups opposed to expanding political speech rights. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supported a vote on Sullivan and Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) praised Sullivan, calling him “eminently well qualified for this position.” Indeed, it appears not a single Senator besides McCain and Feingold opposed his nomination.

“In recent years, campaign finance ‘reformers’ have bemoaned the supposed dysfunction at the FEC as it sought to implement court decisions protecting First Amendment rights,” Smith said. “It seems their strategy now is to simply oppose any nominee who would faithfully implement campaign finance law and regulations in favor of someone who shares their regulatory worldview.”

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

CCP joins advocacy groups in challenging Wis. regulations

More advocacy groups are joining the challenge to regulations proposed by Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board (GAB).

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) will seek friend-of-the-court status to file a brief in the merits stage of the case. Wisconsin Club for Growth and One Wisconsin Now will argue at a hearing Aug. 12 that the state should be prevented from enforcing a new administrative rule that would require political speakers to register a committee and report funding for their commentary on matters of public policy.  

Yesterday, Wisconsin Right to Life filed a similar challenge. The regulations are set to go into effect Aug. 16 (groups would have to register with the GAB by Aug. 13).

“This rule is an overly broad attempt to hamstring political speakers with cumbersome rules and regulations,” said CCP vice president Stephen M. Hoersting, who testified in public hearings before the GAB on the rulemaking in 2008. “The state is attempting to redefine campaign finance rules in defiance of both the Wisconsin legislature and the U.S. Supreme Court.”

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

Death of a thousand cuts for tax financed campaigns?

It hasn’t been a good few weeks for supporters of government leveling the political playing field.

The Supreme Court has prevented the state of Arizona from distributing so-called matching or rescue funds to candidates who accept tax subsidies facing candidates who opt out of the system. The Court will decide whether to take up the case on the merits this fall.

An appellate court recently ruled a similar system unconstitutional in Connecticut, using the rationale of a 2008 Supreme Court decision—Davis v. Federal Election Commission—to hold that a state may not punish a candidate for spending privately-raised money by matching her spending dollar-for-dollar with a government check.

The Connecticut legislature attempted to salvage the program by simply increasing the base grant from $3 million to $6 million, but Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a past supporter for Connecticut’s program, vetoed the change and derided the changes as turning the “Citizens’ Elections Program” into a “welfare program for politicians.” She has called for a special session and proposed a bill that would maintain the base grant level; it would also implement a discriminatory contribution limit for lobbyists (which is quite possibly unconstitutional).

Another important development is that an appellate court prevented the state of Florida from distributing rescue funds to Attorney General Bill McCollum, a gubernatorial candidate. Rick Scott, another Republican gubernatorial candidate, argued that Florida’s tax financing program has similar constitutional flaws to the other programs that were struck down, and the 11 Circuit issued a ruling preventing McCollum from collecting a state check to supplement his campaign coffers as Scott prepares to spend more than the $24.9 million threshold from his personal wealth.

Filed Under: Blog

Enhancing voter choice through Instant Runoff Voting

The Center for Competitive Politics is pleased to offer this guest blog post by Rob Richie, Patrick Withers, and Alec Slatky of FairVote

The national mood as we head into Election 2010 appears to signal a good year for Republicans. Between the rising Tea Party movement, President Obama’s falling approval ratings, and polls from key races, it seems likely that Republicans will increase their numbers in Congress and state houses.

In a small-“d” democratic republic such as the United States, that’s the way things are supposed to work—the voting public decides how they feel about certain policies and candidates, votes accordingly, and those elected more closely reflect the interests and desires of the public, at least at that particular moment.

But an oft-ignored flaw of American democracy, plurality voting, potentially stands in the way of having a government that more closely reflects the intent of the voters. Given policymakers’ failure to pass statutes to accommodate increased voter choice with voting methods like instant runoff voting, this could be another election seasons dominated by  talk of “spoilers”—harkening back to Ross Perot’s presidential bids in 1992 and 1996 and last year’s special congressional election in New York.

Filed Under: Blog, Colorado, Nevada

Nothing improper was done

Filed Under: In the News

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