In the News
The Courier-Journal: Outside groups manipulate Ky. voter impressions
By Joseph Gerth“If we want to get more disclosure from these groups, somebody of some prominence in the Democratic Party, maybe Alison Lundergan Grimes, has to come out and say, ‘This harassment of donors to these groups has to stop,'” Smith said. “The fear is palpable and it is real.”The “harassment” ranges from Reid’s statements, to consumer boycotts against companies and their owners who are involved in the political process, to threats from lawmakers to impact legislation either supported or opposed by donors.Furthermore, Smith said disclosure of such donors could chill the political speech of some potential donors because disclosing them could harm some personal or business relationships. For instance, he said that a lawyer for a firm that represents gas and oil interests might not feel free to contribute to a group concerned about climate change if that donation would be made public.
By Michael BeckelDavid Keating, the president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which favors increased deregulation in elections, sees this as a positive development.“Whenever there’s more speech that means there’s more information for voters,” says Keating, adding that such information helps “drive” voters to the polls.Challengers, in particular, he continued, are generally helped “when there’s more money spent informing people about the incumbent’s record.”
By Lee E. GoodmanI am an outspoken supporter of free press rights and, in particular, the rights of newspapers and other media organizations to cover elections and candidates. A free press is essential for a healthy democracy. Our nation’s founders recognized this principle in the First Amendment’s free press clause, and Congress expressly exempted the press from all FEC regulation under a statutory provision commonly referred to as the “press exemption.”Unfortunately, some of my fellow FEC commissioners have read the statutory press exemption very narrowly, especially in recent years. This explains why the FEC staff person with whom you spoke expressed cautionary advice.I have spoken out both publicly and within the agency on how the restrictive positions taken by certain of my colleagues will cause a palpable chill on free press rights. Your decision not to hold the proposed forum indicates that your newspaper has been chilled from exercising its First Amendment rights. This is very unfortunate and exactly the result that our founders and Congress sought to avoid.
EditorialWhile planning the screening, we sought an advisory from the FEC to see if holding such a forum could potentially violate campaign finance law. FEC spokeswoman Dorothy Yaeger said that since Mr. Woolf was the only one here with a film, this was uncertain territory for the agency.“The general guideline the FEC follows, she said, was that a sponsored event could not highlight one candidate over another,” according to a story Thursday in the Times. “Since Mr. Woolf is the only candidate who has produced a movie, showing it would seem to favor him and have ramifications under campaign finance law.”The ramifications can be expensive. Corporations are banned from making direct contributions or expenses to federal election campaigns under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, and a stiff fine can ensue.Officials at the Times felt compelled to cancel the event due to the warning inherent in the FEC’s advisory. This is unfortunate as it deprives residents the chance to publicly explore the candidates’ views on the agricultural ideas brought up in the documentary.
By Paul BedardIn a surprise move late Friday, a key Democrat on the Federal Election Commission called for burdensome new rules on Internet-based campaigning, prompting the Republican chairman to warn that Democrats want to regulate online political sites and even news media like the Drudge Report.Democratic FEC Vice Chair Ann M. Ravel announced plans to begin the process to win regulations on Internet-based campaigns and videos, currently free from most of the FEC’s rules. “A reexamination of the commission’s approach to the internet and other emerging technologies is long over due,” she said.
By Stephen DinanFEC Chairman Lee E. Goodman said what Ms. Ravel is proposing would require a massive bureaucracy digging into the corners of the web to police what’s posted about politics.“I cannot imagine a regulatory regime that would put government censors on the Internet daily, culling YouTube video posts for violations of law — nothing short of a Chinese censorship board,” Mr. Goodman said.
By Judson BergerA statement from Goodman and his GOP colleagues on the commission likewise warned about the implications of the 3-3 decision, and a “desire to retreat” from “important protections for online political speech.”This, they wrote, would be a “shift in course that could threaten the continued development of the Internet’s virtual free marketplace of political ideas and democratic debate.”This is hardly the first warning from Goodman and his colleagues about the direction of the current FEC. He previously has warned that officials at the agency want to start regulating the media, and might even try to regulate book publishers. Democrats on the commission have called those allegations “overheated” and overblown.
By Francis WilkinsonIn department-store owner John Wanamaker’s famous estimation, half of all the money he spent on advertising was wasted; he just couldn’t tell which half. Watching the gobs of money thrown into television’s maw in the costliest midterm election in history, some political pros are beginning to wonder if the correct answer isn’t “both.”“We may find out,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy. “In the cheaper states we have hit crazy overkill.”
By Carly FiorinaThis month, a climate-related pressure campaign by Greenpeace forced the Danish toy-maker Lego to end its relationship with Shell. Too often companies succumb to the interests of a small minority of well-organized, professional activists intent on chilling speech and marginalizing the voice of business and job creators in U.S. society. The goal of these activists is to have business bow to their ideological will and reshape companies in their desired image. Their attacks on businesses’ protected speech and political participation are intended to sideline the entrepreneurial perspective and silence the opportunity for nuanced policy discussions.More pressure campaigns are underway, and the attacks won’t stop until companies — and their leaders — take a stand.
By Nancy ScolaThe U.S. Senate’s long resistance to filing campaign finance reports on anything but paper occasionally turns into a hot political topic: At the moment, for example,Republicans are complaining that Democrats are intentionally swamping the system by submitting minutely-detailed reports to the Federal Election Commission.The filing of Rep. Bruce Braley (D) alone, running for U.S. Senate in Iowa, is 26,000 pages long. The FEC takes each filing and sends it to a contractor, who types it in, character by character. The process can take weeks, if not months. Braley, meanwhile, goes before voters in 11 days.
By Kevin RingFrom my prison bunk in Maryland, I offer this unsolicited but hard-learned advice for the commonwealth’s lawmakers and lobbyists:Zero is the right “limit.” Lawmakers should not pick some low-dollar value for a gift limit. Go with zero. First, if you create a limit, no matter how reasonable-sounding, people will try to abuse it. When Congress limited gifts to $50 in the 1990s, the late Abe Pollin allegedly responded by setting the value of a ticket to a Verizon Center skybox at $48. Second, do not be fooled into thinking that limiting the size of permissible gifts solves the problem. Numerous psychologists and behavioral economists have confirmed the principle of reciprocity: People are hard-wired to repay even small favors or gifts. For officeholders, this benign, evolutionary instinct could come back to hurt them.Any legal prohibition should also apply to lobbyists, not just the public officials they are trying to influence. I say this to protect lobbyists, not hurt them. Every lobbyist knows that conflicted feeling when a lawmaker whose help you need asks you for something you know he or she probably should not take.