Obama Bus Tour Shines Light on Presidential Public Funding Program

President Obama has been taking a lot of heat for his taxpayer funded bus tour which, despite assurances from the White House that the tour is “official business,” many critics and media outlets believe is meant as a campaign tour of battleground states. This piece from the Chicago Tribune, however, is a reminder that this kind of public financing of campaign-related events is nothing new:

But no mention was made by Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus or Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady that a re-election seeking President George W. Bush used a bs from the same manufacturer, Quebec-based Prevost, for a Spring 2004 “Yes, America Can” campaign tour through the midwest.

Obama ends a three-day Midwest bus tour today, traveling aboard one of two $1.1 million Prevost buses purchases by the Secret Service. Previously, the Secret Service said, it leased buses and fitted then with security and communications gear, then stripped them of the equipment afterward. Bush’s 2004 opponent, Democratic Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., also campaigned in a bus from the same firm.

Filed Under: Blog

If only we were ruled by philosopher-kings

The so-called “Super Committee” established by the recent debt-ceiling deal is drawing scrutiny by self-styled campaign finance “reformers,” particularly when it comes to their fundraising efforts while serving on the committee.

Needless to say, the commentary and reporting on this issue suggests that what needs scrutiny is the ‘reformers’ understanding of how a democratic Republic works. Courtesy of National Public Radio:

Supercommittee at risk with campaign donors

The 12 lawmakers on the new deficit-cutting supercommittee have their hands full. They’re under orders to bring Congress a plan for cutting the deficit by more than a trillion dollars, and to do it before Thanksgiving.

At the same time, they’re also raising funds for their next campaigns, and that could be a problem if the supercommittee members are under pressure to bite the hands that feed them money…

Who’s Giving

According to Sheila Krumholz, the [Center for Responsive Politics] director, the No. 1 source of contributions [to committee members] was The Club for Growth, a group that promotes smaller government and a deregulated market. Not surprisingly, every penny of its $1 million in contributions went to Republicans.

“Microsoft was second, with $944,000,” she says. That’s money from employees and its PAC.

Democrats on the committee got almost all of it, especially their co-chair, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), whose state is where Microsoft’s home base is located.

There are many other ways to parse the donor numbers: by industry, by party and so forth. But the point is, when the supercommittee meets, its members will be pressured to make changes that would affect some of those very groups that helped them get elected.

Murray, for instance, ran an ad last year during her re-election campaign that reminded voters how she helped Boeing land a controversial Air Force contract. In Washington state, 79,000 residents work for Boeing.

But now the supercommittee has to consider whacking billions out of the Pentagon budget, and Murray will help to decide whether big contracts, likely including some for Boeing, end up on the cutting board.

Shocking, no? Senator Patty Murray, representing a state with 79,000 employees of Boeing (and who knows how many family members, subcontractors, and other persons who also depend on Boeing for their livelihoods), might actually feel some obligation to look after the interests of the voters and citizens who put her in office!

That this observation is made at all is indicative of just how badly ‘reformers’ misunderstand and even mistrust the basic concepts of our system of government. Of course Senator Murray is going to be under some pressure to consider the how her decisions will “affect some of those very groups that helped them get elected.” That’s her job, for cryin’ out loud! Our democratic Republic rests on the idea that those elected to office are supposed to represent the interests of the citizens who elect them.

The idea of insulating government from the suspect interests and preferences of the populace is not a new one of course, but it seems worth noting that 235 years ago, give or take, the idea that government officials should be responsive to the citizenry got rolling in the country, and few seem eager to abandon it. Except, apparently, for some ‘reformers.’

Filed Under: Blog, Washington

Federal contractors: “…a kind of non-racial version of the Klu Klux Klan”?

The St. Louis Chronicle published an irresponsibly inaccurate editorial with an offensive cartoon today calling on President Obama to sign the contractor-disclosure draft executive order. 

The article misleads the reader by insinuating that the primary intent of the executive order is to have company officers disclose to the public donations to federal candidates and parties, while noting only at the very end that this information has been readily available for years.

In a desperate stab to make a “Koch connection” rather than a real argument, the editorial glosses over the primary purpose of this draft executive order, which is to force contractors to reveal donations to charitable organizations.  No doubt, the St. Louis Chronicle found it easier to justify using a graphic representing donors to politicians as members of the KKK rather than people who donate to environmental groups or Planned Parenthood. In fact, the point about disclosing non-profit donations received all of one sentence in the article.  Obtaining donation lists to non-profit charitable organizations has been the primary objective of the “reform” movement since the failure of the DISCLOSE Act. 

While we’re on the topic, the editorial cartoon is in very poor taste.  It is interesting that the Chronicle would suggest that those seeking to speak through co-called SuperPACs represent the Ku Klux Klan, because in fact the right to speak anonymously has served this country as valuable protection against the predations of the KKK.   


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

Ohio’s “truth” laws and the Susan B. Anthony List trial

A federal court recently ruled that a defamation suit filed by former Ohio Rep. Steven Driehaus against the Susan B. Anthony List can move to trial.

Former Rep. Driehaus sued SBA List alleging that billboards they provided during campaign season claiming that he voted in favor of taxpayer-funded abortions constituted defamation and led to a “loss of livelihood.”  Representative Driehaus considers himself pro-life, but voted in favor of the federal health care overhaul which, according to SBA List, did not include provisions explicitly prohibiting taxpayer-funded abortions.  SBA List’s claim against Driehaus stems from a study by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which also took the stance that the bill did not provide adequate measures to prevent certain insurance pools with access to federal funds from paying for abortion services.  Driehaus claims that current statutes and an executive order fully prevent taxpayer money from going towards abortions, which SBA list disputes.

The complaint made it to the Ohio Elections Commission, which concluded that there was probable cause that SBA List violated Ohio’s draconian false statements law.  For those of you who do not live in Ohio, it may seem odd that a state panel exists for determining the validity of campaign ads.  In some regards, the panel is similar to FactCheck.org.  The panel, however, has the ability to threaten citizens with fines and criminal charges if they don’t toe the government line on their version of the “truth.”Although he ultimately dropped the complaint, Driehaus then filed a defamation suit.Emily Buchanan, the executive director of SBA list, made this statement to Fox News:

Filed Under: Blog, Current Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, SBA List v. Driehaus Other Links, Ohio

Manhattan Institute: What CEOs Need to Know About New Governance Developments

Filed Under: Other Resources – Corporate Governance – Manhattan Institute – Articles, Books, Publications

Manhattan Institue: What CEOs Need to Know About New Governance Developments

Filed Under: Other Resources – Corporate Governance – Manhattan Institute – Articles, Books, Publications

Stephen Colbert’s First Attempt at Campaign Ad Might Backfire

Mock talking-head Stephen Colbert has proven he’ll put his SuperPAC funding to work promoting his particular brand of sarcasm by creating and airing “campaign ads” that essentially play jester to the court of American politics. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The comic, who portrays a mock political talk host on his Comedy Central show, produced two television commercials through his PAC, laden with images of corn and farms, asking for the “Parry” vote. “That’s ‘Parry’ with an ‘a’ for America, an ‘a’ for Iowa,” one ad says.

On his show Thursday, he encouraged the misspelled vote “because there’s no ‘e’ in ‘team.'”

Colbert bought commercial time to run his ads on the NBC and CBS affiliates in Des Moines. But the ABC affiliate, WOI-DT, rejected the ads. In an email sent to Colbert, the station said the ads would confuse voters.

Confusion is, apparently, the point.

Filed Under: Blog

The fundamental divide

An article in ABC News reports that Romney was at a campaign event yesterday when he uttered: “Corporations are people, my friend,” and “everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people.”

He went on to justify his remark saying:

“Where do you think it goes?” Romney asked. “Whose pockets? People’s pockets,” he said, smiling. “Human beings, my friend.” 

Mitt Romney’s utterance exposes the deep philosophical divide between the “reform” and non-“reform” community.  Although this divide extends well beyond the topic of campaign finance law, it is particularly relevant when framing the discussion of what role corporations should play in our electoral process.

To reformers, corporations are more often than not faceless behemoths that serve one goal: creating profits at all costs, even at the expense of the little man.  This does not seem right to reformers, and therefore should be fixed through government intervention.

Filed Under: Blog

Bradley Smith on Shareholder Paternalism in The Washington Examiner

CCP Founder Bradley Smith has an op-ed in today’s Washington Examiner detailing the latest effort to implement shareholder paternalism by getting around the Citizens United decision by any means possible.

The latest effort to end-run Citizens United is the so-called Shareholder Protection Act of 2011. Ostensibly, this legislation, if passed, would provide shareholders in corporations knowledge and potentially the right to vote on corporate political spending.

Although supporters have promoted this idea as encouraging transparency, in fact the goal seems to stifle political speech by causing corporations to distance themselves from politically sensitive issues and candidates, and by creating administrative barriers to efficient operation of the corporation.

The Shareholder Protection Act, as the op-ed makes clear, was unsuccessful in passing Congress, so talk of a draft Executive Order has been floating around that uses Presidential privledge to accomplish what Congress found lacking. Whether the Executive Order will become a reality is unclear; but Smith has a few questions while the issue sits on the backburner. Specifically, he asks, if political giving needs to approved by shareholders, why shouldn’t all types of corporate giving, such as gifts to the arts?

Filed Under: Blog

In the News: Washington Examiner: Citizens United, shareholder paternalism and arts funding

Citizens United, Shareholding Activists, And Political Speech: What Corporate Managers Need To Know By Bradley A. Smith Citizens United, the 2010 ruling that famously led President Obama to wag a disapproving finger at the Supreme Court during his State of the Union address, held that businesses have a right to engage in political campaigning. Although […]

Filed Under: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Corporate Governance Press Release/In the News/Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, In the News, Published Articles

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