More disclosure nonsense: Who’s behind the American Justice Partnership

The Washington Post reports on a recent report by the American Justice Partnership, which has issued a report criticial of various liberal groups that have been trying to do away with judicial elections, noting in the report that George Soros and other liberal activists have been funding the effort.  Over at Election Law Blog, they seem to think that the most interesting part of the story is that AJP does not disclose its donors.

As usual, I’m puzzled as to why anybody thinks this is important.  It doesn’t much affect the message, but if one feels a desperate need to know “who’s behind this,” any cub reporter with 4 minutes on his hands can quickly check the group’s web site.

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog

Fiddlesticks! The end of the line for AIPAC litigation

Back in 1989, James E. Akins, U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Nixon and Ford administrations, and several other former public officials* filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission agains the American-Israeli Public Affairs Council, or AIPAC, alleging that AIPAC was a PAC and therefore had to register as a PAC with the FEC.

On Wednesday of this week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia probably (maybe, we will see if there is an appeal) brought down the curtain on this long running litigation by granting summary judgment to the FEC.  In the interim, the AIPAC litigation made a trip to the Supreme Court, and was the subject of numerous lower court decisions, none of which decided the issue.

Meantime, a quick Lexis search reveals that Judge Leon is only the second U.S. judge ever to employ the term “fiddlesticks” in an opinion.

Filed Under: Blog

Campaign finance history article published

I’m featured in the latest issue of the Election Law Journal.  The article, The Michigan Auto Dealers Prosecution: Exploring the Department of Justice’s Mid-Century Posture Toward Campaign Finance Violations investigates the pursuit of three sets of auto dealers for small dollar corporate contributions in the 1946 and 1948 election cycles.  The conventional wisdom had been that the Department of Justice would not prosecute under the Tillman Act, or under Taft Hartley, for violations of the corporate contribution and expenditure bans. 

Something about the auto dealers was different . . . but what?  A Great Man view of history might attribute the difference to the role played by the charismatic Arthur Summerfield, but such a superficial treatment of this important era isn’t at all satisfying.

The answer takes you into the gritty world of Michigan Republican politics, accompanied by an insider’s view of the Truman Justice Department under Tom Clark available only with the recent release of key documents.

In the end, the record in the auto dealers prosecution reveals real reservations among prosecutors about the constitutionality of the Tillman Act and Taft Hartley.  This prosecution nevertheless went ahead due to a confluence of idiosyncratic political factors.  This story is in fact the exception that sheds light on the rule.

A sample of the endorsements of my new article that I hope and expect to receive:

“A real page-turner.  I couldn’t put it down.”

                                Arthur Schlesinger


“I always knew Hayward would amount to something.  The question was just how long it would take.”

                                Herb Alexander


“A blockbuster.  I have to rethink everything I thought I knew.  But it will an existential crisis worth weathering.  Bravo!  Bravo! Allison”

                                Trevor Potter


 “Get back to work.”

                                Brad Smith & Sean Parnell

Filed Under: Blog

Excessive disclosure comes to Congressman Perriello’s campaign

The Center for Competitive Politics has long argued that while there may be some minimal benefit to disclosure of large contributions to candidates for office, most other disclosure measures are intrusive, unnecessary, and potentially dangerous. Hence, our opposition to the DISCLOSE Act, the latest effort by the so-called campaign finance “reform” community to stifle unwelcome political speech.  

But our focus has generally been on the contributor side, pointing out how excessive disclosure usually simply gives ammunition to candidates who prefer to demonize opponents by discussing their donor’s alleged sins rather than address substantive issues. Also important, of course, is that disclosure enables politicians, their allies, and enraged and potentially unhinged activists and cranks to harass, intimidate, and exact retribution against those that dare to dissent from their own agenda.

Neglected by us has been the very real possibility that disclosure on the expenditure side poses similar risks to those who do business with or work for the candidate.

Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post today report that a staffer for the National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC) yesterday tweeted the names and home addresses of six staffers for the campaign of incumbent Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello.

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog

Waiting for ExxonMobil’s one percent

In the wake of the Citizens United decision, the American public were treated to all sorts of supposedly scary hypotheticals in which corporate America opened up their vast treasuries to dump billions and even trillions of dollars into the election process, an amount apparently sufficient in the minds of so-called campaign finance “reform” advocates to turn otherwise-thinking voters into propaganda-numbed robots unable to vote contrary to however the corporations tell them to.

The sums of corporate money that the “reform” community feared and predicted were substantial. For example, Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center wrote for the New York Times:

“Consider Exxon-Mobil. In 2008, its… profits that year – which it was legally barred from pouring into politics – were $45 billion. It was illegal for Exxon to spend that money on elections; now with this decision, it will be legal. Exxon or any other firm could spend Bloomberg-level sums in any congressional district in the country against, say, any congressman who supports climate change legislation, or health care, etc.”

“Bloomberg-level sums” presumably mean between $75 and $102 million, the least and greatest amounts of his own funds Mayor Bloomberg of New York City spent in his three campaigns. Winning candidates for U.S. House in 2008 averaged a little over $1 million according to, and the most expensive race in the country had featured combined spending of both candidates of about $10.6 million. So putting between $75 and $102 million into a single U.S. House race, the scenario offered by Waldman, would mean dramatically outspending almost any candidate in the race by 15, 20, a hundred times or more!

Filed Under: Blog

New York City gets well-written report and not much else for $27 million dumped into campaigns

New York City has operated a system of taxpayer-financed political campaigns since 1989, which has consumed about $125 million since its inception. Today the New York City Campaign Finance Board released its report on the 2009 election cycle, which saw $27 million doled out to candidates.

New York City’s program is of particular interest not only due to its 20-year track record, but because the Fair Elections Now Act currently in Congress is in many ways based on the Big Apple’s Campaign Finance Program, particularly the idea of a generous match for smaller contributions.

The report runs 230 pages, and despite the gushing rhetoric in the Forward, there’s little evidence that New Yorkers have gotten much for their money.

Filed Under: Blog, New York

A Longitudinal Analysis of Interest Group Influence in Retirement Policy

In this article, John C. Scott analyzes the interaction of interest groups and how they benefit each other within the retirement policy lobbying realm. Scott argues that interest groups find it mutually beneficial to belong to a network of similarly interested organizations as these networks reduce the costs for government agents when they are tasked […]

Filed Under: Issue Advocacy, Lobbying, Research, congress, interest groups, John Scott, lobbying, Issue Advocacy, Lobbying, Issue Advocacy, Lobbying

Legal and Logistical Ramifications of the National Popular Vote Plan

This article concerns the legislative proposal of a California-based group, National Popular Vote, Inc. (NPV), which, if approved, will essentially eliminate the Electoral College in lieu of a nationwide popular election. In this article, the author addresses numerous logistical and constitutional problems that will inevitably be the subject of litigation if a significant number of states approve the NPV compact.

Filed Under: Electoral College, Research, npv, Electoral College, Electoral College, California, District Of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington

Citizens United and Its Critics

This short article examines criticism of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Amidst the criticism, the author highlights what most of the decision’s opponents miss:  the Citizens United decision wasn’t about money in politics; it was about the First Amendment. By inspecting the testimony of Deputy Solicitor General Stevens and then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan, the author illustrates the decision’s potential impact on the First Amendment, had it been decided differently. The author continues, placing the Citizens United decision in context with a brief examination of several other First Amendment cases decided by the Roberts Court, and concludes with a strong message about the case and its seminal relationship to the First Amendment.

Filed Under: Citizens United v. FEC, Faulty Assumptions, First Amendment, Research, Floyd Abrams

Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs

In this report, the author explains how forms of state legislation stifle the political speech of political entrepreneurs, those individuals and organizations who form and grow new political voices and movements. Specifically, the report examines the effects of two types of state campaign finance regulations that act as barriers to independent citizen groups:  contribution limits and political action committee (PAC) requirements. A lack of appreciation for the role of political entrepreneurs in promoting innovative public policy and electoral competition on the part of those in power has resulted in the erection of barriers for outside groups who wish to speak out. The report concludes that instead of encouraging civic engagement, states are attacking independent political advocacy through unnecessary, speech-limiting regulations.

Filed Under: Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits, Contributions & Limits, External Relations Sub-Pages, First Amendment, Independent Speech, Issue Advocacy, Research, Super PACs, campaign contributions, Contribution, Contribution Limits, Disclosure, Expenditure, Political Committees & 527s, Contributions & Limits, Disclosure, Expenditure, Political Committees & 527s, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

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