Junk Disclosure: Massachusetts

Mitt Romney’s Commonwealth is the next target in this series of posts unearthing “junk disclosure” requirements. Alert readers will recall that such laws are analogous to “junk science” and provide voters with no useful information. Instead, they require political speakers to generate useless, confusing, or even misleading “information.” 

Under Massachusetts law, a radio or television independent expenditure must include an onerous and windy disclaimer. So, suppose Bostonians for Democracy (BFD) wanted to run a radio advertisement advocating the defeat of Commonwealth Representative Khan and using thinly veiled references to Star Trek. Whether or not BFD is a corporation, its chief officer (however it might determine that person) must appear and say: “I am James Kirk, the Head Poobah of Bostonians for Democracy, and Bostonians for Democracy approves and paid for this message.” That takes about seven seconds—which is seven second of airtime BFD has to pay for (and seven seconds that add virtually nothing to the public’s understanding of BFD’s perspective, or the merits of its case against Khan).

Filed Under: Blog, Massachusetts

Junk Disclosure: A series on stupid disclaimers

In a landmark 1993 case, the Supreme Court held in Daubert v. Merrell Dow that “expert testimony ” or scientific “evidence” was inadmissible at trial if it was based on “junk science.” That is, if the information or methods were not reliable, admitting it would not help the jury in its fact-finding role.

Why haven’t the courts applied this principle to political speech regulation cases? Disclosure of the identity of political spenders is upheld in cases because courts see these requirements as furthering an important purpose, by informing the public who supports or opposes the candidate or cause at issue. Just as expert testimony and scientific studies can give jurors useful information to arrive as a conclusion, one could think about reporting requirements, disclaimers, and all the rest as serving a similar purpose for voters.

Unfortunately, there is no Daubert decision for campaign disclosure. There should be, since if a disclosure provision does not provide useful information, there is no state interest that could justify the intrusion into privacy and association rights. Furthermore, it might generate inaccurate information—or at least obscure the interesting bits in a sea of minutia.

Filed Under: Blog, Alaska

NYC pension hacks and investment activists mau-mau employers

Back in the day when New Journalism was both new and journalism, Tom Wolfe’s influential essay Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers described how activists manipulated the City of San Francisco’s poverty programs through confrontation and intimidation.

Today, the confrontation involves self-appointed corporate governance advocates, aligned with New York City’s Comptroller. Their goal is to manipulate the governance policies of a broad array of companies. Companies that, by the way, employ people—who then pay taxes and fees that fund federal, state and local governments, and invest in many of the same companies.

Filed Under: Blog, Corporate Governance, Corporate Governance Press Release/In the News/Blog, Corporate Governance State, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, State, State Press Releases and Blogs

Oil, that is. Black Gold. Texas tea!

On television’s The Beverly Hillbillies, Jed Clampett and brood moved to Beverly Hills from the Ozarks after striking oil. Ironically, real-world Jeds and Elly Mays live in Beverly Hills today—and they’re not pleased with Measure O, a city ballot measure that would impose oil severance taxes on the oil fields… of Beverly Hills.

Apparently, Beverly Hills sits above an oil field. How appropriate.

Anyhow, one can imagine that people feel strongly, and might even seek to communicate with voters! Which they are technically welcome to do—subject to an astonishing disclaimer ordinance also recently adopted by the City of Beverly Hills.

The text is reproduced below [emphasis added]. Try to come up with some reasonable justification for this laundry list of requirements—one that doesn’t include suppression of speech (and passes a laugh test):


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

Why the frown at the FEC?

First, to explain the title. “Why the Frown” is what my 11-year-old daughter insisted was the phrase abbreviated as “WTF.” But it seems appropriate to use it in a post about the post-Citizens United FEC rulemaking brouhaha, because there are frowns to go around.

Filed Under: Blog

Comments of CCP Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward on Maryland Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Campaign Finance Report

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) submitted comments in response to the Maryland Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Campaign Finance report that included several recommendations for campaign finance reform. Among other recommendations, CCP took issue with the committee’s suggestion of increased disclosure requirements, which are likely to be uninformative in addition to burdensome and unnecessary.

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Comments, Disclosure State, External Relations Comments and Testimony, External Relations Sub-Pages, State, State Comments and Testimony, Comments and Testimony, Maryland

So, you want to pass campaign finance reform

CCP’s Allison Hayward imagines a conversation between former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama about how to use campaign finance legislation to bolster re-election chances:

Filed Under: Blog

Comments of CCP Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward on Maryland Campaign Finance Reform Proposals

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) submitted comments to a Maryland panel considering changes to the state’s campaign finance law. CCP’s policy recommendations include raising contribution limits to permit effective political speech within the structure of campaigns. CCP also commented on proposals to regulate political speech disseminated through social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as proposals to invent new disclosure requirements supposedly justified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Filed Under: Blog, Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits Comments, Contribution Limits State, Disclosure, Disclosure Comments, Disclosure State, External Relations Comments and Testimony, External Relations Sub-Pages, State, State Comments and Testimony, Comments and Testimony, Maryland

Sullivan on Citizens United

Academics and lawyers continue to parse Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which as topic de jour for the scholarly crowd may earn a title as this decade’s Bush v. Gore.

Kathleen Sullivan, former Stanford Law Dean, uber-litigator, and one of the smarter campaign finance scholars around, attempts in her recent Harvard Law Review piece to locate both the majority and dissent views in established strains of First Amendment scholarship:

Citizens United has been unjustly maligned as radically departing from settled free speech tradition. In fact, the clashing opinions in the case simply illustrate that free speech tradition has different strands.

Sullivan then presents an argument for regulations that she believes should satisfy both sides.

But, well, I’m not convinced.

Filed Under: Blog

What Changes Do Recent Supreme Court Decisions Require for Federal Campaign Finance Statutes and Regulations?

In this article, Allison Hayward notes that the tide may be changing in the world of campaign finance. She discusses the various ways in which new Supreme Court and appellate court decisions will require a fundamental change in the current structure of the campaign finance regime. According to Hayward, the Supreme Court seems poised to offer protection for political speech. Accordingly, she suggests that Congress embrace the opportunity to revise current campaign finance restrictions. Ultimately, the article makes it clear that the Supreme Court and appellate decisions have the capacity to significantly alter current statutes concerning campaign finance.

Filed Under: Research, Allison Hayward, appellate, hayward, Supreme Court, Enforcement, Enforcement

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