The Times Has Lost All Perspective

The New York Times, among others, reacted with wild-eyed dismay to a court’s recent decision to strike down the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations to candidates. Obviously, reading legal opinions is hard work – especially on a Saturday. But The Gray Lady’s sky-is-falling analysis is nonsense, and would have benefited from some reflection on what the court actually did.

Bemoaning the “spree of big-money political campaigning – and the corruption that comes with it,” the Times noted that:

Judge [James] Cacheris’s ruling struck down part of an indictment accusing two businessmen of illegally reimbursing employees for their donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for president and the Senate. They are charged with paying more than $180,000 to 43 fake donors in an effort to evade donation limits.

Pretty terrible, right? Almost $200,000 of illegal donations, funneled from corporate executives through their employers! Surely that sort of behavior raises corruption concerns and should be illegal?

Well… of course.

Filed Under: Blog

CCP Submits Amicus Brief in Montana Case

CCP submitted an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court of the State of Montana last week regarding a case challenging the constitutionality of Montana’s law prohibiting independent corporate expenditures.  The ban was struck down by the Citizens United ruling, which found that independent corporate expenditures are protected under the First Amendment.

“Montana’s Attorney General continues to defend a law that blatantly contradicts Citizens United, expending precious state resources in the process,” said CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson.  “Montana is the only state in America that did not conform to the ruling.”

The Attorney General’s brief argues that Montana is specifically vulnerable to corruption and their current laws, which would otherwise violate the First Amendment, are necessary to ensure that the state is not overrun by corporate interest.

“Being a resource-rich state is not grounds for exemption from the First Amendment,” said CCP President Sean Parnell.  “Resurrecting as a bogeyman the long gone Copper Kings doesn’t justify limiting political free speech in Montana.”

“This is a case where one of the fifty states believes it deserves an exemption from the First Amendment, relying on arguments that the Supreme Court has found unpersuasive,” said Dickerson. “The Montana Supreme Court should take this opportunity to emphasize that we live in a nation of laws, and that the Constitution applies everywhere, equally.”

Filed Under: Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Press Releases, Western Tradition Partnership v. Bullock Other Links, Montana

Why Democrats Are Losing The Messaging War On Federal Contractor Disclosure

Filed Under: In the News

Corporate contribution ban struck down

First Amendment advocates got an unexpected but welcome present heading into the Memorial Day weekend, as a federal judge in Virginia struck down the ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates. Ken Vogel of Politico reports:

A federal court in Alexandria, Va. on Thursday struck down a federal ban on corporate campaign contributions, in a case with potentially dramatic ramifications for a campaign finance regulatory system under siege by legal and regulatory attacks.

The ruling, from the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia, piggybacked on a January 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that allowed corporations to spend money on ads supporting or opposing candidates.

Citizens United stopped short of allowing corporations to give directly to candidates, but it did find that corporations are entitled to free speech rights.

District Judge James Cacheris ruled that, based on Citizens United, corporations should be allowed to contribute directly to candidates’ campaigns.”If human beings can make direct campaign contributions … and if, in Citizens United’s interpretation … corporations and human beings are entitled to equal political speech rights, then corporations must also be able to contribute within (the federal) limits,” Cacheris wrote in a 52-page decision.

The ruling came in a criminal case brought by the U.S. government against two men – William Danielczyk, Jr. and Eugene Biagi – alleging they skirted campaign contribution limits by reimbursing their employees for $186,600 in contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for Senate in 2006 and president in 2008.

You can read the full decision here.

We’ll have more analysis and commentary in the coming days, but for now we at CCP will enjoy our Memorial Day weekend happy to see that the First Amendment continues to advance while campaign finance regulations that inhibit robust political debate continue to fall out of favor with the courts.

Filed Under: Blog

US judge rules against corporate contribution ban

Filed Under: In the News

Colbert Request to FEC Goes Too Far, Reform Groups Warn

Filed Under: In the News

CCP Supports Rep. Cole’s Amendment

The Center for Competitive Politics sent a letter to House leadership and other members of Congress in support of Representative Cole’s amendment regarding disclosure for government contractors.  The amendment would prevent executive agencies from collecting information regarding the private donations of citizens and companies to trade associations and social welfare groups

This amendment is a direct response to President Obama’s recently released draft Executive Order.  The order compels companies bidding on federal contracts to collect and submit with the proposal private information about donations by employees, executives, and board members.

“President Obama’s proposed Executive Order would not only inject a ready-made Nixonian type ‘enemies list’ into the federal acquisition process, but it is also an attempt to legislate by fiat,” said CCP President Sean Parnell.  “We are thrilled that Representative Cole recognized and addressed this attempt by the President to circumvent the legislative process to further his own political ambitions when similar measures were rejected by Congress last year.”

The current draft Executive Order is derived from a controversial section DISCLOSE Act, which was voted down in Congress last year. 

Passing Representative Cole’s amendment would not only ensure the integrity of the federal acquisition process, but it would also allow citizens working for government contractors to feel safe donating to causes that may not be in favor with the current administration.

“Regardless of what party is in power, all citizens, including those who work on federal contracts, should be able to make donations to the general operations of a non-political organization without fear of retribution,” said CCP Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward.  “Representative Cole’s amendment protects government contract workers, who are Americans with First Amendment rights, from having another layer of privacy taken from them.”

Currently, political contributions and expenditures from contractors to candidates and parties are already disclosed to either the FEC or the IRS.  All of this information is publically available and readily searchable.

“Enacting Amendment #142 to H.R. 1540 is an important step of protecting the privacy and First Amendment rights of the people who make what the federal government does possible,” said Parnell.  “It is foolish to bring partisan politics into the federal contracting process in order to ensure that partisan politics does not influence the process.”

 

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases

CCP responds to adoption of Cole Amendment

The Center for Competitive Politics responded to passage today of   Representative Tom Cole’s (R – OK) amendment to H.R. 1540, which bans executive agencies from collecting information regarding the private donations of citizens and companies to trade associations and social welfare groups.  The amendment was offered in response to a proposed Executive Order that would compel government contractors to reveal this information when sending in proposals.

“This is a strong rebuke to the executive branch’s effort to bring politics into the federal contracting process and enable the creation of a Nixon-style Enemies List,” said CCP President Sean Parnell. 

Although the amendment helps ensure the integrity of the federal acquisition process, it also allows citizens working for government contractors to feel safe donating to causes that may not be in favor with the current administration.

“People who work for federal contractors are American citizens who should be able to make donations to the general operations of organizations that are not political committees without the fear that this information may be used against them or their employers,” said Parnell.  “There are expectations of privacy in any household, and, without the Cole amendment, President Obama’s forthcoming executive order would make people have to choose between their beliefs and the potential for retaliation by the government.”

The measure passed 261 to 163 with bipartisan support. 

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases

Disclosure Laws Bring Implicit Threats

That sound you hear is the bat slapping against a Congressman’s hand.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) has proposed cutting foreign aid for countries that consistently vote against America’s interest at the United Nations. Chabot’s position mirrors earlier proposals by former UN ambassadors John Bolton and Jeane Kirkpatrick. The message is simple: “If we are giving money to countries consistently voting against our interest, we ought to cut them off.”

The logic is easy to see. And this is a perfectly normal response to disclosed information. After all, as Chabot might say, if we’re paying these countries, they damn better well stay bought.

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

Rep. Cole fights Pres. Obama’s proposed Executive Order

Representative Tom Cole filed an amendment to current DOD Reauthorization legislation in response to President Obama’s draft Executive Order that would compel companies and private citizens who work for government contractors to reveal their donations and membership payments to trade and professional associations and social welfare groups when submitting bids for federal contracts.  The proposed amendment would prohibit government agencies from demanding this information be submitted with bids for contracts that are supposed to be free of politics.

The amendment will help keep politics out of the federal acquisition process. The Cole amendment would allow private citizens who happen to work for contractor to donate to causes that may be unpopular with both this and also future administrations without fear their personal views will jeopardize their ability to have bids fairly considered.

Filed Under: Blog

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