Thoughts on Tuesday’s election

Tuesday’s results are being discussed, debated, and disputed by many. Questions are being asked about what message was sent, was it received, who sent it, and for goodness sake does this mean I can finally turn the ringer on my phone back to the “on” position?

We at CCP have a few questions ourselves, as well as a few thoughts. I thought I might share them here.

  1. With the losses on Tuesday of Meg Whitman and Linda McMahon, who between the two of them spent at least $180 million on their campaigns, can we finally put to rest the notion that it is possible to “buy” an election? The Center for Responsive Politics has a roundup here of wealthy, self-funding candidates that lost, and notes that fewer than one in five candidates who put $500,000 or more into races for federal office this year won.
  2. Regarding all the hysteria about “foreign” money allegedly being spent by the US Chamber, and “secret” money being spent by “shadowy” groups, it really doesn’t seem that candidates benefiting from this independent spending suffered, now does it?

Filed Under: Blog, California, Connecticut, Maine, Wisconsin

Election related initiative wrap up: Voters reject tax-financed campaigns again, and lots more

With the shift in partisan power from this week’s election, the results of a number of election related initiatives and referenda in the states probably won’t get the coverage they deserve.  Heading the list: Florida voters reject tax-funded campaigns – to no avail.

Filed Under: Blog, Maine

SpeechNow.org denied cert, won major issue on contribution limits

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of a lower court ruling in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.

From the joint Center for Competitive Politics-Institute for Justice press release:

SpeechNow.org-styled groups are flourishing and making an enormous impact in this election cycle. Despite today’s denial by the U.S. Supreme Court of their petition challenging PAC regulations, SpeechNow.org achieved an important victory for First Amendment rights.

In a lower court ruling, SpeechNow.org, a group of individuals who sought to pool their money to buy ads supporting candidates with good First Amendment track records and oppose those who limit free speech, won the most important aspect of this case:  vindicating the right for individuals to join together and raise and spend unlimited funds to support or oppose candidates.  Grassroots groups of citizens, led by SpeechNow.org’s example, are now on par with wealthy individuals, corporations and unions, raising the money they need to have an effective voice in this year’s political campaigns.  Unfortunately, these groups must still navigate the thicket of PAC regulations imposed by the FEC while individuals, corporations and unions need only file minimal disclosure forms…

“Since SpeechNow.org won this case in appellate court, more than 50 SpeechNow.org-styled independent groups have formed, increasing the competitiveness of campaigns,” said Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC Chairman.  “That alone is a pretty impressive achievement from this litigation.”

“Americans, however, should not have to register with government bureaucrats and navigate a maze of red tape to advocate for or against candidates,” Smith added.  “We’ll keep fighting to make sure more citizens can join together to communicate their views.”

Filed Under: Blog

The Costs of Mandating Disclosure

In this essay, John Samples argues against the fundamental reasoning underlying campaign disclosure. According to Samples, mandating disclosure “both reflects and fosters the decline of self-government in the United States.” According to the essay, not only does forced disclosure fail to achieve its goals, but it has the opportunity to “raise the cost of political participation through political abuse and economic harms.” Samples also believes mandating disclosure deflects attention from the content of the message and instead undesirably shifts the focus to the source of the message’s funding. He acknowledges that Bruce Cain’s idea for “semi-disclosure” would be a noted improvement over the status quo in disclosure requirements, but ultimately rejects Cain’s idea because of the inability to ensure that disclosure information would not be used for political retribution.

For the original essay that this piece responds to, please read, “Shade from the Glare:  The Case for Semi-Disclosure,” by Bruce Cain.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Enforcement, Expenditure, Disclosure, Enforcement, Expenditure

Shade from the Glare: The Case for Semi-Disclosure

In this essay, Bruce Cain takes an interesting look at what many seem to believe is “the most widely embraced element of election regulation”:  disclosure. Recognizing that disclosure is gaining traction in the evolution of election law and enforcement, Cain proposes that legislatures explore an option known as “semi-disclosure.” Essentially, a system of semi-disclosure would assign donor ID numbers to contributors and require full reporting, while making only some campaign donor information publicly available. Then, in the event of a corruption allegation, full disclosure information could be released to the public. In Cain’s view, this system has the opportunity to do the greatest good at reducing the likeliness of quid pro quo corruption while avoiding sacrificing protected political speech. As disclosure requirements continue to be discussed and debated across the United States, the author’s semi-disclosure proposal warrants consideration in policy circles.

For a response to the author’s semi-disclosure idea, please read the essay, “The Costs of Mandating Disclosure,” by John Samples.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Enforcement, Disclosure, Enforcement

U.S. Supreme Court declines to review SpeechNow.org free speech case

SpeechNow.org-styled groups are flourishing and making an enormous impact in this election cycle. Despite today’s denial by the U.S. Supreme Court of their petition challenging PAC regulations, SpeechNow.org achieved an important victory for First Amendment rights.

In a lower court ruling, SpeechNow.org, a group of individuals who sought to pool their money to buy ads supporting candidates with good First Amendment track records and oppose those who limit free speech, won the most important aspect of this case:  vindicating the right for individuals to join together and raise and spend unlimited funds to support or oppose candidates.  Grassroots groups of citizens, led by SpeechNow.org’s example, are now on par with wealthy individuals, corporations and unions, raising the money they need to have an effective voice in this year’s political campaigns.  Unfortunately, these groups must still navigate the thicket of PAC regulations imposed by the FEC while individuals, corporations and unions need only file minimal disclosure forms.

“Since SpeechNow.org won this case in appellate court, more than 50 SpeechNow.org-styled independent groups have formed, increasing the competitiveness of campaigns,” said Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC Chairman.  “That alone is a pretty impressive achievement from this litigation.”

Filed Under: Press Releases

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