Campaign Finance and Federalist 10

In The Federalist number 10, one of America’s most revered political writings, James Madison (1751-1836) made the case that suppression of liberty in order to curb the influence of factions was at odds with American principles. Of course, today’s so-called “reformers” would disagree.

Historians and political thinkers since antiquity have noted the alarming readiness of democratic populations to sacrifice individual liberty for a (usually false) sense of security and stability. It’s an unfortunate reality of human nature that transcends political dogmas the world over and manifests in a number of instructive ways, including, of course, campaign finance issues, whereby large portions of the population are happy to give up certain liberties for the perceived security from “special interests” obtained through increasingly restrictive regulations on free speech.

The Federalist number 10, long regarded as one of the greatest of American political writings, was published in several New York newspapers in November 1787 as part of a series advocating the ratification of the constitution by the state of New York. Its author, constitutional architect and future president James Madison articulated for the ages the problems of faction (or what we would now usually term “interest groups”) and its solution in maintaining a large republic.


Filed Under: Blog

There are No Shadow Groups to Fear

The New York Times has a piece in today’s paper parroting the hysteria surrounding outside groups and their ability to fund ads to affect campaigns through the use of SuperPACs. While the paper gets the basic facts straight, they seem intent on pushing the meme that outside groups creating ads and supporting candidates will lead to a situation that will somehow weaken democracy in general.

These groups, which are not supposed to coordinate with candidates’ campaigns or the political parties, are called Super PACs, but the label doesn’t much matter. The point is that in the past several years outside groups — using various types of financing vehicles — have accounted for a growing share of the money spent in federal elections.


Filed Under: Blog, Super PACs

Manhattan Institue: James Copland speaks with Harvey Pitt about shareholder proposal trends over the last four years and how the SEC has changed since Dodd-Frank

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

Brad Smith disputes the ‘Wild West’ of Reformers Nightmares

Brad Smith attempts to dispel fears that without increased disclosure rules in campaign finance regulation the state of elections could turn into a modern day version of the Wild West. From The Daily Caller:

The hyperbole from campaign finance reformers is that the public will never know who funds political advocacy, which they blame on the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In short, get ready, America, for a new version of the Old West, where lawlessness reigns and those willing to draw first write the rules.



Filed Under: Blog

In the News: Daily Caller: Campaign-finance McCarthyism

Campaign-finance McCarthyism By Bradley A. Smith As the 2012 campaign heats up, it seems like everywhere we hear warnings of “shadowy groups” pumping millions into campaigns, “and nobody knows where that money is coming from.” The hyperbole from campaign finance reformers is that the public will never know who funds political advocacy, which they blame […]

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

The Solyndra Debacle and Disclosure

It’s not often that a pet issue, the inefficiency of government subsidies for “green” technology, and campaign finance collide.  However, this week’s announcement that Solyndra, a solar-cell manufacturer to whom the Obama administration provided a $535 million loan, went bankrupt raises some interesting points.

Even if the DISCLOSE Act or President Obama’s proposed Executive Order had been enacted, Solyndra executives would not have been subject to the disclosure requirements as government contractors.  While it’s no state secret that the head of Solyndra and many of the top executives are outspoken Obama supporters, it begs the question: why do proposed disclosure requirements seem only to target certain groups that receive taxpayer money? 

Surely the “reform” community is up in arms about Obama’s “cronies” managing to fast-track a half-billion dollar loan through the energy department without disclosing their cozy relationship with the administration?  

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

Onerous Disclosure Could Empower Corruption

Over at his blog, The Agitator, Radley Balko makes a few very good points about mandatory disclosure laws.

One point particularly stands out: the concern that overzealous political administrations might use tax collecting agencies to audit and harass contributors to committees or politicians of the “wrong stripe.”  

This got me to thinking.

Most of the nation’s current regimen of campaign finance dates back to the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act, amendments  that were passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal and the general ne’er-do-well-ism of the Nixon White House.  Contribution limits, disclosure laws…even the agency of the FEC itself, was created, in part, because of the misdeeds of President Nixon’s campaign during the
1972 election.

Well, what else did Nixon do?

He abused the Internal Revenue Service to go after his political opponents.

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

Manhattan Institute: Proxy Monitor 2011: A Report on Corporate Governance and Shareholder Activism

Filed Under: Other Resources – Corporate Governance – Manhattan Institute – Proxy Monitor Reports

When is disclosure OK?


In the second segment of this video series, CCP Chairman Brad Smith discusses the primary legitimate function of disclosure and how requiring too much disclosure isn’t useful.  Brad describes why the Supreme Court upheld disclosure requirements and how using disclosure information to boycott business is outside of government interest.  Finally, Brad discusses the line between having too much and too little disclosed information and how having too much information can obscure relevant information and be misleading.  The event was an AEI panel on President Obama’s proposed executive order that would require federal contractors to reveal non-profit donations.


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

Brad Smith on NPR’s All Things Considered, Saturday, September 3

CCP Founder and Chairman Brad Smith appeared on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered on Saturday, September 3. Smith discussed the impact and legal status of so-called “SuperPacs” in the 2012 elections. You can listen here.

Filed Under: Blog

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