Cato: What Is Dark Money? (Podcast) (In the News)

Featuring Luke Wachob and Caleb O. Brown
Luke Wachob of the Center for Competitive Politics argues that the misnomer of “dark money” is hardly the scourge it’s made out to be. 

Filed Under: In the News, Luke Wachob, Quotes CCP

Carlsbad Current-Argus: Secretary of State’s power grab on nonprofit privacy (In the News)

By Bradley Smith and Paul Gessing
This spring, the New Mexico Legislature considered imposing new donor disclosure rules on nonprofit organizations. The measure was vetoed by Governor Martinez over privacy concerns. Now Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is attempting to impose those rules by bureaucratic fiat, using a regulation to enact what couldn’t be done through the normal lawmaking process.
Bureaucratic rules can serve an important function. They help to implement and clarify laws that are passed by the legislature.
But here, instead of implementing the law, the Secretary of State’s Office is enacting rules that were rejected in the constitutional lawmaking process. Although pitched as “political disclosure,” as Governor Martinez wrote in her veto message in April, “the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances.”
Furthermore, the rules, if adopted, will almost certainly be challenged in court…
Governor Martinez wisely chose to avoid this course of action for New Mexico. We should be cautious when considering proposals that restrict or chill charitable giving. We should especially not impose such policies through a subversion of the democratic process. 

Filed Under: Brad Smith, In the News, Published Articles

International Business Times: How Republicans Protect Anonymous Donors And Their ‘Dark Money’ Groups (In the News)

By Josh Keefe
Lawmakers in the current Congress have slipped language into two spending bills to protect so-called “dark money” nonprofits from IRS scrutiny. The provisions prevent the IRS from examining or defining the nebulous rules that govern those groups, which are not required to disclose their donors. Critics say those groups are taking advantage of a broken campaign finance system – and charge that Republicans in both Congress and the Federal Elections Commission are making sure the system doesn’t get fixed.
“Dark money” is a term used to describe spending by nonprofit “social welfare” organizations, usually 501(c)(4) organizations, which are named after the section of the tax code that created them. They are called “dark” because they don’t have to disclose their donors, due to a 1958 Supreme Court decision that ruled the NAACP didn’t have to disclose its donors to the state of Alabama…
Those who defend the practice on free speech grounds believe the term “dark money” is sensationalist, and argue that it accounts for less than five percent of total campaign spending.
A 501(c)(4) can engage in politics and still maintain its tax exempt status so long as politics is not its “primary activity.” 

Filed Under: In the News, Quotes CCP

Daily Media Links 7/7: National group targets campaign spending plan, Student Group Sues Macomb Community College Over Speech Policy, and more…

In the News Carlsbad Current-Argus: Secretary of State’s power grab on nonprofit privacy By Bradley Smith and Paul Gessing This spring, the New Mexico Legislature considered imposing new donor disclosure rules on nonprofit organizations. The measure was vetoed by Governor Martinez over privacy concerns. Now Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is attempting to impose […]

Filed Under: Daily Media Links, Uncategorized

Daily Media Links 7/6: Initiative Aims to Force Disclosure of Advocacy Group Donors, No, corporations are not “people.” But the First Amendment still applies., and more…

First Amendment Learn Liberty: No, corporations are not “people.” But the First Amendment still applies. By Michael Munger Corporations, then (and this was the holding in Citizens United) can participate in politics because to rule otherwise would be a restriction on the freedom of association guaranteed by the First Amendment. (The amendment actually says “peaceably […]

Filed Under: Daily Media Links

Seattle Times: Democracy vouchers: a flawed law (In the News)

Imagine a special tax was levied on newspapers to fund vouchers that people could use to buy Fox News Channel subscriptions. Would that impact free-press rights? 
The new lawsuit challenging Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” [“Suit challenges city vouchers for campaign contributions,” NWThursday, June 29] makes such hypotheticals worth pondering. 
The article on the lawsuit claims that “Under the complaint’s rationale, virtually any public financing of campaigns that relies on tax revenue would be impermissible.” 
But the lawsuit makes a more nuanced argument. The funding mechanism for this voucher program is unusual – a special property tax was levied to pay for it. The law does not allow that tax to be used for any other purpose. 
The voucher law allows the program to be funded from general city funds. But that option is not being used. The lawsuit hasn’t challenged the use of general funds. 
There are important First Amendment questions raised by the poorly drafted voucher law. Governments shouldn’t pass a special tax on a few to fund speech some oppose. 
Hopefully, the court will agree. 

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Published Articles

Daily Media Links 7/5: House Bill Would Ax Election Panel, Bar Limits on Money in Politics, Texas Supreme Court denies tea party challenge to election laws, and more…

In the News Seattle Times: Democracy vouchers: a flawed law By David Keating Imagine a special tax was levied on newspapers to fund vouchers that people could use to buy Fox News Channel subscriptions. Would that impact free-press rights? The new lawsuit challenging Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” [“Suit challenges city vouchers for campaign contributions,” NWThursday, June […]

Filed Under: Daily Media Links

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