FEC oversight hearing: not necessarily what you think

Today the Subcommittee on Elections for the House Committee on Rules and Administration will hold an oversight hearing for the Federal Election Commission.

We hope the Committee will hold the Commission’s feet to the fire. Here’s a good first question: Why have you held up constitutionally required changes to the regulations to comply with Citizens United and SpeechNow.org by insisting on adding in regulations already rejected by Congress in the so-called DISCLOSE Act? 

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

Unfounded Fears: the 501(c)(4)/SuperPAC Connection

It would appear that there’s a new worry on the block for campaign finance reformers. A piece inProPublica gives voice to what is undoubtedly the next big scare as SuperPACs continue to dominate headlines in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election: will 501(c)(4) organizations be created and used as a way to funnel unlimited amounts of money to candidate-related SuperPACs as an end-run around disclosure legislation? Reporter Marian Wang propses the following scenario:

[Texas Governor Rick] Perry’s allies also just launched a new nonprofit, Citizens for a Greater America, which will also be able to take in unlimited funds while keeping donors secret. iWatch News posted a fact sheet on the new group that it traced to a Perry fundraiser who had received it from Mike Toomey, Perry’s close ally and former chief of staff.

The efforts could be the start of a new trend in campaign finance — nonprofits started by allies of a specific candidate that can be used as conduits for undisclosed donations. Together with those so-called candidate-specific super PACs, the two groups make a powerful pair, allowing supporters to donate to support specific candidates with few restrictions and, if so desired, with no disclosure.  

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

Note To FEC: Don’t Be Sore Losers

Dear FEC: losing court cases is not an invitation to regulation.

As previously mentioned in this space before, CCP – co-counseled with Dan Backer, Ben Barr, and Steve Hoersting – recently won a case in federal court. That case, Carey v. FEC, allowed our client, the National Defense PAC (NDPAC), to accept both hard- and soft- money contributions, so long as it keeps those funds in separate accounts.

But there has been an open question since the ruling: would the FEC interpret that settlement as applying only to NDPAC, or would it universally cease enforcement of regulations it has conceded are unconsitutitional?

We received an answer yesterday. The FEC has announced that all PACs may benefit from the ruling in Carey. But the Commission’s press release suggests more work ahead.


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

David H. Padden: Friend of Liberty, R.I.P.

We are saddened to hear of the passing this week of David H. Padden, a Chicago businessman who was on our Board of Advisors here at the Center  for Competitive Politics. Mr. Padden was a warm and gracious gentleman, a highly successful entrepreneur, and a great champion of liberty and of free speech. Mr. Padden supported many pro-freedom groups and organizations, including the Heartland Institute, which he founded and where he served as Chairman for many years. His advice and leadership will be missed, but the United States is freer and more prosperous because of David Padden, and it is hard to leave a more meaningful legacy than that.

Filed Under: Blog

More “SuperPAC” disinformation from Colbert and Potter

We’ve noted in past posts that comedian Stephen Colbert’s efforts to skewer campaign finance have tended to demonstrate, at least to the careful observer, something quite different from what Colbert hopes to show. Colbert seems to think he is proving that deregulation of political campaigns helps the rich and powerful, when in fact he is demonstrating how regulation helps the rich and powerful.

Now Rick Hasen links to Colbert’s most recent bit, featuring Trevor Potter, a high priced Washington lawyer whom Colbert has enrolled to be his straight man. Colbert first asks Potter why corporations aren’t giving to his PAC. Potter answers that that is because the corporations want to remain anonymous. Now, granting comedic license, this is, of course, absurd. Corporations don’t give to Colbert’s PAC because, well, why the hell would any corporation give to a joke PAC that does not share its views?

Filed Under: Blog

Avoiding Intimidation and Harassment

I’m just spitballing here, but anybody who donates a few hundred bucks to a Presidential candidate: 1.) poses no risk of bribing them (after all, Rick Perry has informed us his price is far north of $5,000) and 2.) doesn’t need a retaliatory landlord or her unreasonable boss to know about the donation (“Paula gave to Thaddeus McCotter?  How embarrassing.”).  Unfortunately, Congress seems to disagree, and as a result, such a donation gets your name and address posted on the Interwebs. 

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has protected the right of donors to really unpopular causes from being exposed to the harsh glare of public scrutiny.  (Again, the McCotter donation does not count.)

Let’s say that we have an organization that is so unpopular and controversial, that the mere association of an individual with that group is enough to earn “threats, harassment, and reprisal” from members of the general public or from the government itself.  Since Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, these groups have been shielded from all government mandates that they disclose their donors.  Most case law supporting this constitutional principle focuses on the ever unpopular socialists, such as the Ohio Socialist Workers’ Party, a group which was hilariously infiltrated so thoroughly by the FBI that several Socialist Workers’ candidates for office were actually spies.

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

Campaign Disclosure, Privacy and Transparency

In this William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal article, authors Deborah G. Johnson, Priscilla M. Regan, and Kent Wayland explore the trade-off between privacy and transparency in the context of campaign finance disclosure requirements. As the authors’ explain, the policy discussions about balancing or reconciling the importance of public disclosure with the protection of […]

Filed Under: Disclosure, First Amendment, Research, Deborah G. Johnson, Kent Wayland, Priscilla M. Regan, Privacy, Disclosure, First Amendment, Disclosure, First Amendment

Full Disclosure: How Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws Fail to Inform Voters and Stifle Public Debate

Disclosure is intended to be a low-cost means of combating corruption by providing citizens with information about the funding sources and expenditures of groups that advocate for or against issues on the ballot. In practice, however, disclosure does little to inform voters while imposing onerous burdens on those wishing to participate in the democratic debate. […]

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure State, External Relations Sub-Pages, Research, campaign finance reform, David Primo, Disclosure, Florida, institute for justice, Disclosure, Disclosure, Florida

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