The strange case of W. Spann, LLC

LLC. If you’ve missed it, the campaign finance scandal du jour is reported in the Washington Post:

a now-extinct corporation called W Spann LLC, … gave $1 million in April to Restore Our Future, a “super PAC” created to help Mitt Romney’s presidential run, according to Federal Election Commission records.

We’ve got a few thoughts you won’t see in the standard press story line. Read the whole thing.

Filed Under: Blog

Lessons from across the pond

There was an excellent op ed in today’s Washington Post discussing the disproportionately large role the British media plays in influencing elections:

Several observers have attributed this outsized power to the country’s draconian campaign finance laws, which not only limit the amounts that political parties, candidates and even independent groups can spend on political speech, but also outright prohibit advertising on broadcast media. As in the United States, the media’s own news and editorial coverage of politics is exempt from such limits, although the British broadcast media are subject to a rough equivalent of our defunct “Fairness Doctrine,” which purports to ensure that television and radio networks offer equal time to opposing viewpoints. Like American laws, which subject broadcast campaign ads to more rigorous regulation, the British laws view newspapers as being somehow less subversive and thus exempt from the impartiality obligations.

The article continues:

Where does this all end? Jacob Rowbottom, a law lecturer at Cambridge University, writes in the New Republic that some have urged newspapers to be subject to the same impartiality requirements as other media. Others have suggested diluting the concentration of media ownership. Naturally, for those of a regulatory mindset, the kneejerk reaction to any problem is more regulation, even when it was regulation that created the underlying problem in the first instance. Such a foolish notion would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so dangerous. The inevitable end-game of this regulatory mentality is precisely what Orwell warned us against: a society in which government censors at the “Ministry of Truth” protect the naive and impressionable public from the subversiveness of the free marketplace of ideas. In the days before the “Newspeak Dictionary,” we called this “totalitarianism.” Now we call it “campaign finance reform.”


Filed Under: Blog

Russ Feingold Adds 501(c)(4) entity to Progressives United

On Monday of this week, former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold announced that Progressives United, the organization he runs that is dedicated to fighting the Citizens United decision, would add a 501(c)(4) entity. You may remember Senator Feingold as one of the lead sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the bill most people know as McCain-Feingold. You may also remember that 2010’s Citizen’s United ruling overturned the provision of McCain-Feingold that made it illegal for corporations, unions or other groups to pay for issue advocacy ads during the last few months of political campaigns, when most people actually pay attention to issues.

Filed Under: Blog

Success in National Defense PAC Case

Sarah Lee, Communications Director

The Center for Competitive Politics


ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) client, The National Defense PAC (NDPAC), was recently awarded a motion to stay discovery in its challenge to prevent the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from subjecting it to a burdensome investigation.

Joining CCP as co-counsel in this effort were Dan Backer of DB Capitol Strategies, Benjamin Barr, and Stephen Hoersting.

The decision prevents the FEC from examining NDPAC’s documents, deposing its executives, or otherwise engaging in an unwarranted investigation of its lawful activities. Further, NDPAC will be saved the substantial costs – in time, attorneys’ fees, and disruption – that such an investigation inevitably entails.

CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson noted that the decision has a positive effect on the speech rights on grassroots organizations involved in political fundraising. “The FEC’s regulation disproportionately affects small, grassroots organizations that cannot afford to be buried in administrative paperwork or lawyers’ fees,” he said. “This decision helps ensure that when Americans must vindicate their First Amendment rights in court, they can do so without first being subjected to a lengthy and ultimately irrelevant government audit.”


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

Court rules in favor of CCP client

On Friday, the Federal Election Commission was blocked from subjecting CCP client National Defense PAC (“NDPAC”) to a burdensome and unnecessary investigation. Joining CCP as co-counsel in this effort were Dan Backer of DB Capitol Strategies, Benjamin Barr, and Stephen Hoersting.

After reviewing over 30 pages of argument, the federal district court in DC required only one paragraph to make its decision. That order granted NDPAC’s motion to stay discovery in its ongoing challenge to an unconstitutionally burdensome FEC regulation. As a result, the FEC will not be able to examine NDPAC’s documents, depose its executives, or otherwise engage in an unwarranted investigation of the PAC’s lawful activities. And NDPAC will be saved the substantial costs – in time, attorneys’ fees, and disruption – that such an investigation inevitably entails.

Filed Under: Blog

White House now wants corporate America to speak?

Today I read an interesting article in the Washington Post about the debt ceiling debate and the role played, or rather not played, by the business community.

‘Embarrassed’ CEOs Silent on Debt Debate Driven by Republicans

With the U.S. government on the verge of a historic default, the country’s largest business lobbying group took to the halls of Congress last week to press lawmakers to support the Panama Free-Trade Agreement.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsored a “door knock,” with 80 members handing out Panama hats to tout a trade deal with a country that has a smaller economy than Akron, Ohio. To critics, the Chamber event illustrates what has been a deafening silence from U.S. executive suites on the gridlock in Washington over raising the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling…

At a closed- door meeting with Chamber lobbyist Bruce Josten last month, Democratic Senators Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Warner of Virginia upbraided the group and its member companies for not twisting arms hard enough to get a compromise package worked out, according to two people familiar with the discussion who spoke on condition of anonymity* because the meeting was private…

This is interesting because, if I recall correctly, Begich and Warner were among those Senators backing the DISCLOSE Act and expressing opposition to the Citizens United decision last year, falling in line with the general hysteria over the idea of corporate political speech.

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

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