Charlie Cook on campaign finance

At an event this morning hosted by Common Cause at the National Press Club, political analyst Charlie Cook took aim at some campaign finance myths.

Cook, the author of the eponymous Cook Political Report, was asked a question about independent political spending in the 2010 midterm cycle and whether it represented the harbinger of things to come in 2012.

Filed Under: Blog

Granite State Supreme Court stands rock-solid with First Amendment

Back in September the Supreme Court New Hampshire heard oral arguments in Green Mountain Realty Corporation v. The Fifth Estate Tower LLC. The case involved a business, Fifth Estate, that spent money urging voters in Wolfeboro to reject a proposal to build a wireless tower that would be built and operated by Green Mountain Realty. Voters did reject the Green Mountain tower, and Green Mountain subsequently sued Fifth Estate based on the novel theory that the speech of Fifth Estate was false and therefore violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

At trial, the lower court judge instructed the jury that the First Amendment did not protect the statements made by Fifth Estate, because the speech was commercial and not political.

The jury ruled in favor of Green Mountain, and hit them with a $6.7 million fine. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, which today affirmed common sense and the First Amendment and reversed the lower court’s ruling. You can read the ruling here:

Green Mountain Realty Corporation v. The Fifth Estate Tower

The Center for Competitive Politics was pleased to be able to submit a brief in this important test of the First Amendment, which can be read here:

 CCP brief in Green Mountain Realty Corporation v. The Fifth Estate Tower

Filed Under: Blog, New Hampshire

N.H. Supreme Court protects political speech rights

In an opinion issued today, the New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that stripped a cell phone tower company of its First Amendment rights by subjecting its political speech to the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

“This ruling vindicates the First Amendment rights of companies to speak out on politics, allowing citizens to decide the merits of proposals,” said Stephen M. Hoersting, the vice president of the Center for Competitive Politics and the author of a friend-of-the-court brief in this case. “In New Hampshire, small businesses no longer have to worry that their competitors could use commercial speech codes to silence honest debate over political issues.”

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

Grassroots free speech victory in Colo.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion today in Sampson v. Buescher, striking down regulations pertaining to groups advocating for or against ballot initiatives.

The Institute for Justice (IJ) represented the plaintiffs, a group of residents who sought to band together in opposition to a ballot issue involving the annexation of their neighborhood.

Filed Under: Blog, Colorado

You Are Now Free to Speak About Politics

Filed Under: In the News

Four lessons on money and politics from the 2010 elections

The 2010 elections were instructive on the role of money in politics. Here are four lessons learned.

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

Fair Elections Now: When life gives you lemons, pretend reality doesn’t exist

Voters had two chances to vote on tax financed elections on Tuesday, and in both cases a majority opposed public, or as we prefer, tax financing of campaigns.  But that hasn’t stopped Fair Elections Now from claiming the public is with them, thanks to a loaded survey.

Filed Under: Blog

Sunlight Foundation? Or Growlight Foundation?

In an analysis that is difficult to explain in the absence of cannabis metabolites, the Sunlight Foundation insists that forty percent of the $450 million spent by outside groups is attributable to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

How so? Well, because $126 million was spent by groups “that didn’t have to disclose.” And another $60 million was spent by groups that could now raise unlimited money—and disclose: the so-called Super PACs (or what we would prefer to call the SpeechNow groups), since their creation followed the success of a client of CCP and the Institute for Justice in an appellate court decision after Citizens United.

Take a deep, not smoke-filled breath. Citizens United changed nothing regarding disclosure. At all. Nada.

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

Does Kirk provide new hope for DISCLOSE?

In an op-ed today in Politico, Prof. Rick Hasen argues that Congress should use the lame duck session to take up campaign finance reform once again. He suggests that the early seating of Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois gives life to a campaign finance bill in the lame duck session, because Kirk, during his campaign for Senate, spoke in favor of disclosure laws, and urges Kirk to endorse the issue and try to bring other GOP moderates with him. But drafting a disclosure bill that properly balances First Amendment rights, privacy interests, and political neutrality, and that is reasonably enforceable and likely to accomplish its objectives, is no easy task, as experience has shown.

If Prof. Hasen and the regulatory lobby are correct, that more disclosure, stripped of the partisan and unconstitutional provisions of DISCLOSE, is desired by the public, we would expect it to pass in the next Congress. After all, McCain-Feingold passed in a GOP Congress, and it was much more controversial and far reaching than mere “disclosure.”

Congress has a lot on its plate in the lame duck, and any new disclosure bill should be done right—after the new Congress is seated in January.

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

Norm Ornstein makes an inadvertent admission about campaign contributions and corruption

Norm Ornstein, one of the drafters of the McCain-Feingold bill and a longtime advocate for more regulation of political campaigns and speech, seems to have made an inadvertent admission in his column today at the New Republic (actually a recirculation of an earlier column).  If campaign contributions, or the possibility of obtaining them, influenced lawmakers to vote differently than they otherwise would have, “we would see radically different behavior from legislators after they announce their retirements (since from that point on, they are freed from those pesky “tethers”). In fact, there are no discernable differences in voting patterns for members of Congress after they announce they are leaving.”

Filed Under: Blog

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