Column laments privacy, demands more disclosure

National Journal pundit Eliza Newlin Carney wrote over the weekend on the subject of disclosure, and demonstrated pretty conclusively that she really doesn’t understand why anyone might not share her enthusiasm for ripping away the right of citizens to privately support organizations and causes.

To begin with, the article attempts to pin the ‘hypocrite’ label on opponents of overreaching disclosure, noting that disclosure was “Once a bipartisan touchstone…” and “Not too long ago, Republicans on Capitol Hill championed deregulation coupled with disclosure as the solution to the campaign finance mess.”

 But times have changed, and advocates of disclosure today have moved beyond election-related spending to insist on disclosure of a wide range of spending with only the barest of connections to politics. Today’s disclosure demands would instead bring to public light dues paid to professional and trade associations as well as donations to private social welfare organizations that are not intended for campaign spending.

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

Citizens United decision reverberates in courts across country

Filed Under: In the News

New York City politicians try to silence corporate speech

Earlier this year Allison Hayward blogged about New York City politicians using their pension funds to work with the so-called campaign finance ‘reform’ community to push corporations into agreeing to surrender or at least sharply curtail their First Amendment rights recognized in Citizens United. One of the companies identified as a target of this attack was Sprint Nextel.

On Wednesday the Comptroller of New York City John Liu put out a press release touting a vote of Sprint Nextel’s shareholders addressing the company’s political spending:

New York City Comptroller John C. Liu announced a victory for NYC pensioners and institutional investors in the effort to increase corporate disclosures of political donations. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) released vote totals this week that show 53% of votes at its annual shareholder meeting support the New York City Pension Funds’ proposal for transparency on its political contributions. It is one of the largest majorities ever recorded on the issue.

But this was not a vote about transparency or good corporate governance, it was about silencing political voices that politicians like Liu would prefer not be heard.

Filed Under: Blog, Corporate Governance, Corporate Governance Press Release/In the News/Blog, Corporate Governance State, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, External Relations Sub-Pages, New York

How the White House would politicize the contracting process

Filed Under: In the News

Campaign Finance Reform: A New Act in the Theater of the Absurd

Filed Under: In the News

Democrats Test GOP’s Plan at FEC

Filed Under: In the News

Dem groups ask FEC to rule on Super PACs

Filed Under: In the News

The IRS Gets Political

Filed Under: In the News

Foreign-money bashing Center for American Progress takes foreign money

Today Politico reported two interesting stories touching on foreign money in U.S. politics. The first is a modestly embarrassing story that President Obama had thanked civil rights hero Ernie Green, who introduced him at a fundraiser last night, apparently unaware that Green was involved in illegally funneling foreign money into the 1996 campaign:

At fundraiser, Obama introduced by civil rights hero who pleaded guilty in campaign finance probe

The civil rights hero who introduced President Barack Obama at a political fund-raiser in Washington Monday night, Ernie Green, pleaded guilty in 2001 to a federal misdemeanor tax violation after becoming enmeshed in an investigation into illegal foreign money given to Democrats in the 1996 election…

President Obama of course made a big fuss about foreign money in U.S. politics after the Citizens United decision. You can read the full story here.

Far more interesting though was a story that appeared  later this afternoon in Politico:

Funding the left, from Bermuda

The Atlantic Philanthropies has emerged in recent years as a key, quiet funder of the institutional left, providing the money behind, among other groups, the health care outfit Health Care for America Now.

The organization has kept a low profile in part because its funder, duty-free shopping magnate Chuck Feeney, doesn’t appear particularly interested in pubicity. Feeney’s foundation is a giant donor in a number of regions around the world, including Northern Ireland; but he and the Atlantic Philanthropies are based in Bermuda, with the consequence that — through a quirk of tax law — they can freely finance the 501(c)4 organizations that play in politics, which American family foundations can’t do.

Bermuda is a British territory, meaning this is a foreign entity. And if we’re going to go full-on xenophobic about it, it should probably be noted that the company founded by Feeney (and therefore is the origin of the funds given away by Atlantic Philanthropies), the Duty Free Shoppers Group, was started in and retains its headquarters in Hong Kong, once upon a time a British territory and now under control of the Chinese government.

So, which U.S. based organizations do the foreign-based and foreign-funded Atlantic Philanthropies support? The foundation helpfully provides a list and a searchable database, and it turns out that the highly political Center for American Progress (CAP) and Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) received $1,653,000 in five separate grants in 2008 and 2009, most of that going to CAPAF.

CAPAF is not only a 501(c)4 organization able to run political ads, it is the home of ThinkProgress and Lee Fang, who was absolutely hysterical over allegations the politically-active US Chamber of Commerce collected some small amounts of money from foreign affiliates, falsely accusing the Chamber of illegally funneling foreign money into US elections.

Well. Glass houses, motes in eyes, etcetera etcetera.

Filed Under: Blog

New York law professor joins opposition to executive order

Last week, two committees of the House of Representatives met to discuss President Obama’s draft executive order concerning political spending disclosures by federal contractors. The witness list was extensive; indeed, so many experts wished to be heard that many did not have the opportunity to testify in person.    

Brooklyn Law School professor, and former ACLU attorney, Joel M. Gora was one of these experts. But his pithy written testimony quickly outlines the problems with the President’s plan, and further demonstrates the breadth of political opposition to this deeply invasive and partisan regulation.

Filed Under: Blog

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