CCP Recognized for Protecting the First Amendment Against Campaign Finance “Reform”

It goes without saying that one of the goals of an organization like The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) is to get the word out about the nature and quality of the work we do. Occasionally someone notices our work and treats us to public acknowledgement while simultaneously helping us get the word out. Needless to say, we like when that happens. After watching this video from, we hope you do, too.


Filed Under: Blog

Danielczyk for Non-Lawyers

Amid the hysterics concerning Judge Cacheris’s ruling that banning limited corporate contributions is unconstitutional – a ray of sense. Northern Virginia Lawyer has an excellent post: “The educated politico’s guide to U.S. v. Danielczyk: Or rather how to pay attention to a Constitutional campaign finance lawsuit.”

The post makes some excellent points, and serves as a sober reminder that litigation is a considered, careful process. My favorite quote: “Vocal opposition from the media, although widespread, has been focused heavily on the political consequences of the ruling rather than the legal underpinnings or consequences of the ruling.”

Also note that Judge Cacheris has gone out of his way to ensure his decision is subject to appellate scrutiny, even postponing trial to eliminate any question as to the government appeal’s ripeness.

The post is excellent and speaks for itself. But as part of the wider debate over campaign finance laws and the First Amendment, it shows how federal courts are faithful to their traditions of care, procedural fairness, and humility in reviewing these sorts of constitutional challenges. The contrast with the overblown and highly-political rhetoric characterizing opposition to the Danielczyk ruling could not be clearer.


Filed Under: Blog, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, United States v. Danielczyk Other Links

SCOTUS futures market predicts reversal in McComish

For those who can’t stand the wait and wonder each morning what the Supreme Court will bring, the SCOTUS futures market is predicting that the Supreme Court will reverse the 9th Circuit and strike down Arizona’s tax financing scheme of rescue funds in McComish v. Bennett.  So is Tom Goldstein at SCOTUS blog.

Filed Under: Blog

Colbert Super PAC continues to face legal hassles

It’s been interesting to watch comedian Stephen Colbert’s stunt regarding his efforts to establish a PAC that can accept unlimited corporate contributions. While originally intended to highlight so-called ‘reformers’ objections to the Citizens United decision, I think it’s actually providing his viewers with an inside look at just how convoluted, complex, and stifling our current system of campaign finance regulations are.

I’m not alone in this view. Our friends at the Institute for Justice wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, ‘Stephen Colbert’s Free Speech Problem,” that explains:

Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert, like most of his friends and allies on the left, thinks that last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is, literally, ridiculous. To make his case that the ruling invites “unlimited corporate money” to dominate politics, Mr. Colbert decided to set up a political action committee (PAC) of his own. So far, though, the joke’s been on him.

The hilarity began last month, when Mr. Colbert began to have difficulty setting up his PAC, which is a group that can raise money to run political ads or make contributions to candidates. So he called in Trevor Potter, a former Federal Elections Commission (FEC) chairman who is now a high-powered Washington lawyer.

Mr. Potter delivered some unfunny news: Mr. Colbert couldn’t set up his PAC because his show airs on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, and corporations like Viacom cannot make contributions to PACs that give money to candidates. As Mr. Potter pointed out, Mr. Colbert’s on-air discussions of the candidates he supports might count as an illegal “in-kind” contribution from Viacom to Mr. Colbert’s PAC.

Since Mr. Potter delivered his news, Colbert’s PAC has turned into a ‘Super PAC,’ one that doesn’t contribute directly to candidates but makes independent expenditures and accepts unlimited funds. But his travails continue, as now Viacom’s lawyer’s are telling him that because of the difficulty in valuing any in-kind contribution made by them by allowing their employees and assets to be used promoting the PAC, they would really, really prefer he not set up a PAC.

Now Colbert is facing additional hassles with the law.

Filed Under: Blog

San Francisco blogger badly misunderstands Citizens United, campaign finance, and First Amendment

Yesterday evening (late afternoon on the West Coast) Matt Smith of SF Weekly posted a blog post concerning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that shows just how badly the ruling’s opponents misunderstand the decision, as well as just how badly many so-called ‘reformers’ misunderstand campaign finance law in general.

U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United Ruling Cost S.F. $290,000

The U.S. Supreme Court’s crappy Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate funding of independent political advertising, just cost San Francisco $290,000.

That Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling, it turns out, affected the outcome of a 2007 San Francisco case that the City Attorney’s Office today proposed to settle for $290,000…

The Committee on Jobs fund in 2007 sued to strike down a local ordinance limiting expenditures by local political committees. At the heart of the case was the issue of whether independent committees are able to corrupt candidates by getting quid pro quo payback in exchange for helping winning office.

According to Tara Malloy, associate counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, the Citizens United ruling established as a matter of law that independent expenditures don’t lead to corruption, and that therefore there’s no reason to limit them.

This is just plain wrong.

Filed Under: Blog, California

Report falsely claims Obama rewarding bundlers with jobs, contracts

Yesterday the web site iWatchnews, a project of the Center for Public Integrity, released a scathing report on the number of bundlers for the 2008 Obama campaign that have subsequently been appointed to administration positions.

Titled Obama rewards big bundlers with jobs, commissions, stimulus money, government contracts, and more, the report begins:

Telecom executive Donald H. Gips raised a big bundle of cash to help finance his friend Barack Obama’s run for the presidency.

Gips, a vice president of Colorado-based Level 3 Communications LLC, delivered more than $500,000 in contributions for the Obama war chest, while two fellow senior company executives collected at least $150,000 more.

After the election, Gips was put in charge of hiring in the Obama White House, helping to place loyalists and fundraisers in many key positions. Then in mid-2009, the new president named him ambassador to South Africa. Level 3 Communications, in which Gips retained stock, meanwhile received millions of dollars of government stimulus contracts for broadband projects in six states-though Gips said he was “completely unaware” of the stimulus money.

More than two years after President Obama took office vowing to banish “special interests” from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events, an investigation by iWatch News has found.

Pretty scandalous, isn’t it?

Except upon reading the full report, and applying a little common sense it becomes pretty clear that the Obama administration is being unfairly smeared by the accusation that they’re simply handing out government jobs and contracts as a reward for their top fundraisers.

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

Colorado’s fight over disclosure threshold

The Denver Post had an editorial yesterday applauding Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s efforts to update campaign finance reporting requirements in order to comply with a federal court ruling.

Editorial: Minor players, major burden

The secretary of state is right to update state campaign finance rules to exempt small issue groups spending $5,000 or less

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is being sued for trying to ensure that the state complies with a federal court ruling and doesn’t restrict the public’s right to participate in politics. We hope Gessler prevails in his effort to update burdensome requirements in the state’s campaign finance laws.

We’ve long supported disclosure of campaign finance information. Generally speaking, the more information released to the public, the better. But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals was on target last year when it concluded that the law’s burden on a group of citizens who opposed an annexation in Parker was so profound that it actually violated their constitutional rights of association.

Filed Under: Blog, Colorado

Minor players, major burden

Filed Under: In the News

First Amendment Wins in Carey v FEC

ALEXANDRIA, VA – First Amendment rights received a significant boost yesterday when a judge issued a preliminary injunction in Carey v FEC freeing up Political Action Committees (PACs) that make contributions to candidates to also accept unlimited contributions to make independent expenditures and pay for operating costs.

“I applaud this Court’s strong rebuke of the FEC’s rough-shod suppression of the free speech rights of grassroots activists, organizers, and everyday Americans,” said Dan Backer of DB Capitol Strategies following the ruling. “Political speech is a fundamental right, not some privilege accorded at the whim & mercy of the FEC, and this ruling ensures that citizens enjoy the same political speech capabilities as well-funded corporate & union interests.”

Attorneys Stephen M. Hoersting, Benjamin T. Barr and Dan Backer, working with the Center for Competitive Politics, represented Rear Admiral (Ret.) James J. Carey and the National Defense PAC in the case.  The ruling means that PACs without the deep pockets of many unions and corporations can raise funds for independent expenditures without limits and without having to create a second, separate organization.

“This is a big win for the First Amendment, and a blow to the FEC’s apparent intent to ignore precedents like Citizens United,, and Emily’s List in an effort to stifle as much political speech as possible,” said Sean Parnell, President of the Center for Competitive Politics. “It’s time for our current campaign finance regulatory structure to be largely undone as it is overly complex, stifles too much political speech, and leaves too many Americans unsure of whether they can legally speak or not.”

A motion for summary judgment is in the process of being filed.

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

Carey v. FEC Preliminary Injunction

First Amendment rights received a significant boost when a judge issued a preliminary injunction in Carey v FEC, freeing up Political Action Committees (PACs) that make contributions to candidates to also accept unlimited contributions to make independent expenditures and pay for operating costs.  Here is a link to the Injunction.

Filed Under: Carey v. FEC, Legal, Legal Center, All CCP Legal Documents, Carey v. FEC, Completed Cases (Litigation), Completed Cases (Opinions), Litigation, Opinions

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