In politics, it’s easy for narratives to take hold before the facts have a chance to catch up. Political speech issues are no different. In the heat of a campaign, developments in political spending are often reported as if they are the most important factors in determining electoral outcomes, but does this hold true when […]
By Joe Albanese
Demonizing political spending justifies policies aimed at deterring the rich in theory but that actually burden ordinary citizens. For every wealthy donor attacked on the floor of the U.S. Senate, there are many other average Americans harassed because the law requires that their political giving be put online. For every program sending tax dollars to politicians to supposedly reduce the sway of big donors, there is an increased chance that corrupt candidates will find new ways to cheat the system. Worse yet, efforts to deter political participation leave more power for abuse by government agencies – witness IRS abuses against Tea Party groups or pre-dawn police raids over alleged “coordination” between candidates and advocacy groups in Wisconsin…
What would make America more democratic would be enabling more political speech and participation. The recent decline in campaign finance restrictions has coincided with the breakdown of traditional party elites. The result is a rise in independent speech and more people running for office. It is hard to argue in the era of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders that elites have tightened their grasp on our elections.
By Joe Albanese
The Austin City Council is the latest battleground over taxpayer financing of political campaigns. It tasked the Charter Review Commission with devising such a system for the city, on the theory that it will reduce funding gaps among candidates and improve voter turnout. In fact, not only would a tax financing system likely fail in these goals, but it would also undermine Austin residents’ freedom of speech and association.
The commission opted to endorse a system whereby residents would receive government vouchers to give to candidates, emulating a similar program in Seattle…
Although residents can choose which eligible candidates get their vouchers, those paying into the system do not have the choice to withhold their money. Having the right to support a candidate ought to imply a right to not support that candidate…
Although backers insist on following Seattle’s example, that city has not seen much success.
After just one year, the program has already seen its first fraud investigation. Inequality has only continued – a mere fraction of candidates qualified for vouchers in the first year, and they held a large fundraising edge over their opponents. It seems the biggest winners under the program would have done just fine raising money themselves.
And far from bringing more people into politics, the first year of Seattle’s voucher program saw below-average county voter turnout.
Can a subway system ban advertisements that convey a controversial political opinion? What about an ad that asks riders to “embrace humanity and inclusion”? That may seem like a strange combination of scenarios, since we often associate politics with divisiveness, but not so much with “humanity and inclusion.” Yet, this comparison is necessitated by the […]
Concord Monitor: “Fix It America” constitutional amendment is latest attempt to undo First Amendment (In the News)
By Joe Albanese
Will the Twenty-Eighth Amendment be a repeal of the First? One proposed amendment might amount to that. It calls for sweeping regulations on the ability to practice free speech in politics, and even says its provisions can’t “be deemed in violation of freedom of speech rights.”
That should set off alarm bells in your head. It raises the question of why such a caveat is necessary in the first place. That exact phrase comes from the so-called “Fix It America” amendment (H.B. 1524), which was recently discussed in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and written about in the Monitor by John Pudner of Take Back Our Republic.
The “regulations” referred to in that amendment come from a prior clause: “Congress and State Legislatures shall regulate the role of money in elections and governance…” This clause requires regulation of the spending of money on campaigns and policy advocacy (since it says the government “shall” regulate, not that it “may” regulate), which necessitates the restricting of your free speech. The reason is simple: in the modern era, you need to spend some money to spread your message to a large number of people – whether it’s placing ads or simply printing out fliers. Or for that matter, publishing a newspaper like this one.
Members of Congress don’t get along much these days. Americans are well aware that they live in a time of great partisan division, one of the consequences of which is Congress’s continual inability to function efficiently. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia thinks he has a solution: a pledge that sitting senators not campaign against […]
Last week, the Cato Institute hosted a book forum on The Republic of Virtue: How We Tried to Ban Corruption, Failed, and What We Can Do About It by F.H. Buckley. Buckley is a Foundation Professor at George Mason University’s Scalia School of Law. The event featured comments by Michael B. Levy, Policy Director at […]
Filed Under: Blog, Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits Press Release/In the News/Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Cato Institute, corruption, Donor Privacy, F.H. Buckley, John Samples, Michael B. Levy, The Republic of Virtue
We live in politically polarized times – that’s about the one thing most Americans can agree on. A more contentious question is what – or who – is causing that polarization. A common view is that Americans themselves have become more polarized, but Stanford political scientist Morris Fiorina sees it another way: he argues in […]
It’s just a few days into the new year – more than enough time for everyone to have begun breaking their resolutions, but not enough to know what exactly 2018 will hold with regard to media coverage of campaign finance stories. Looking at the past year (and beyond) of such stories in the news, however, […]
Washington Examiner: More campaign finance regulation means less political free speech (In the News)
By Joe Albanese
If Feingold thinks it’s unfair that some people are able to spend more money on elections, is it also unfair that some people can get more attention without spending money at all?
When ordinary people want to express their opinions alongside those of the powerful, they have to raise and spend money to do it. This doesn’t just mean buying advertising time on TV – even posting an internet video or printing fliers requires buying the right materials and equipment. Pooling resources can be an effective way to enhance the voices of ordinary Americans, but these expenses trigger government regulations when they add up.
Yet, campaign finance law only targets certain types of political participation. Before Citizens United, the Obama administration argued in court (at least for a time) that an organization could be forbidden from screening a movie criticizing a presidential candidate. A celebrity or politician can go on TV to criticize that same candidate, however, and face no such legal obstacles. Luckily, the Supreme Court recognized that 501(c) organizations could be an important way for citizens to join together and speak about politics without needing to hire campaign finance attorneys every step of the way. The rich can hire all the help they need – grassroots activists can’t.