LAT writer on Obama’s campaign finance fiat

Los Angeles Times political writer Andrew Malcolm has a biting take on the draft executive order to require additional disclosure regulations:

What could possibly go wrong with that kind of information in a nonpartisan place like Washington?

Now the Obama White House is considering an executive order to create a back-door donor disclosure requirement for companies seeking federal contracts. According to the leaked draft, the order would require contract applicants to disclose any political donations exceeding $5,000 by the corporation or its executives, often Republican supporters.

As it happens, the Wall Street Journal has noted, the draft executive order would not apply to recipients of federal grants or to federal employee unions, often Democratic supporters. Probably just an oversight.

The White House points to the increasing flow of millions of dollars into political activities via third-party groups that are not required to disclose their donors’ identities. Hence the sudden administration interest in transparency.

Critics claim that it’s an end-run around Congress, whose elected members and substantial Democratic majorities defeated similar disclosure legislation last year. And that it’s simply a Chicago-style intimidation tactic to deter those who desire federal work with this Democratic administration from the disgusting habit of donating to GOP members and causes.

This is, of course, a ridiculous suggestion… [E]veryone should accept that this upcoming political Obama executive order is simply about good government and bureaucratic integrity — except for one tiny, silly, little thing.

Most federal contracts are supposed to go to the lowest bidder, regardless of political donations, connections, hometown or hat size. So why would Obama’s South Side gang need to know any company’s political allegiance?

Filed Under: Blog

CCP joins National Defense PAC challenge

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) announced today that it joined the legal team representing National Defense PAC in its challenge to unconstitutional Federal Election Commission regulations.

The federal suit, Carey et al v. FEC, asks the FEC to acknowledge what the courts have already decided: that any political action committee may make contributions to federal candidates using limited funds while also engaging in independent expenditures using segregated funds raised for that purpose. The FEC has demanded that grassroots organizations jump through burdensome regulatory hoops just to speak out about candidates running for office.

National Defense PAC, created by retired Rear Admiral James J. Carey, submitted a request to the FEC for an advisory opinion on the matter in August 2010. Previous court rulings, most notably in SpeechNow.org v. FEC (SpeechNow.org was represented jointly by CCP and the Institute for Justice) and EMILY’s List v. FEC, uphold the principle that organizations may engage in both types of political speech and association so long as funds are properly segregated.

The FEC deadlocked on the issue, with three commissioners voting in support of National Defense PAC’s argument. In response to National Defense PAC’s suit, the FEC has argued against injunctive relief, claiming that the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights were not immediately, irreparably harmed based on the PAC’s ability to clone itself and create another organization to speak on its behalf. 

“The FEC response is typical of its disregard for those seeking clarity in their free speech rights,” said CCP Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward. “What they are really saying is, because of their belief that government alone is in the business of regulating when, where, and how people participate in politics, they don’t want to argue this case on the merits. When those are the facts, who can blame them?”

Filed Under: Carey v. FEC Other Links, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Press Releases

WSJ on political spending executive order

The Wall Street Journal editorializes on the proposed executive order by the Obama administration, which would require broad new disclosure rules for the political spending of federal contractors. As the WSJ notes, this order would politicize the federal contracting process more; it would not make the process fairer:

Here’s another reason to think the 2012 campaign is underway with a vengeance: If a company wants a federal government contract, from now on it will first have to disclose if the company or its executives gave more than $5,000 in political donations.

This latest federal rule comes courtesy of a new executive order now being drafted in the White House. The order would implement parts of last year’s Disclose Act, which failed to pass Congress but was a favorite of Democrats because it would deter political contributions by business after last year’s Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision. White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed last week that the order is in the works after former Federal Election Commission official Hans von Spakovsky obtained a copy of the draft.

The draft of the executive order describes the rule’s purpose as a way to ensure the federal contracting system is free from the influence of “political activity or political favoritism.” Hmmm. Last we checked, government contractors were already required to disclose contributions to candidates. The new twist here is the disclosure of donations to independent groups, a category in which conservatives outspent liberals for the first time in the last election cycle.

And what do you know? The draft order doesn’t cover federal employee labor unions, the Democratic allies whose free speech rights were recognized alongside corporations in Citizens United. Nor do the disclosure requirements extend to recipients of federal grants, which often run into the millions of dollars. These donees are usually Democrats too.

Federal contracts are supposed to go to the lowest bidder, so it’s hard to see how disclosure of political contributions would help contract decisions. Mandatory disclosure would impose politics on federal procurement choices as never before.

Read the whole editorial here.

Filed Under: Blog

The White House Wants a List

Filed Under: In the News

In the News: Lacrosse Tribune: Welfare for candidates doesn’t help the process

Welfare for candidates doesn’t help the process By Sean Parnell The race between Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg was supposed to be an example of how so-called “reformers” tell us election campaigns are supposed to be. The two candidates, unsullied by private contributions, would be able to focus on issues of broad interest […]

Filed Under: In the News, Published Articles, State In the News, Tax Financed Campaigns Press Release/In the News/Blog

Sean Parnell: Welfare for candidates doesn’t help the process

Filed Under: In the News

Government contractor money in politics

So-called campaign finance “reformers” apparently are alarmed at the idea that government contractors might spend money voicing their opinions on candidates for public office, hence the move initially to ban government contractors from doing so under the DISCLOSE Act and now the effort by the Obama administration to impose a disclosure regime that seems designed to discourage them from doing so.

At the same time, the “reform” community claims the answer to all of the unfettered political speech unleashed on the public by Citizens United is the Fair Elections Now Act, which would give hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars to political candidates, with this money coming directly from… government contractors?

I guess corporate-funded political speech is only a problem when the business get to decide how to spend it, not when the “reformers” get to funnel it directly to politicians’ campaigns.

Filed Under: Blog, Money in Politics

Political Contributions by Contractors Targeted

Filed Under: In the News

Want a contract? Reveal your political leanings.

Senator Mitch McConnell responded to Obama’s draft executive order, which would require federal contractors to reveal the political leanings of companies, including their leadership, before awarding government contracts.  As Senator McConnell said:

“Democracy is compromised when individuals and small businesses fear reprisal, or expect favor from the federal government as a result of their political associations.  So recent press reports about an unprecedented draft Executive Order raise troubling concerns about an effort to silence or intimidate political adversaries’ speech through the government contracting system. If true, the proposed effort would represent an outrageous and anti-Democratic abuse of executive branch authority. No administration should use the federal contracting system for campaign purposes.”

CCP joins Senator McConnell in condemning this attempt to chill the speech of those who serve the taxpayers for the purpose of advancing the President’s agenda.

Filed Under: Blog

White House Floating Proposal to Curb Contract Campaign Cash

Filed Under: In the News

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