The Trouble with Bernie

You have to admire his tenacity. Last month, US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), one of the more dedicated anti-business activists in congress, proposed an amendment to the constitution, which among other things, effectively banned any incorporated business from engaging in political spending whatsoever.

Filed Under: Blog, Featured Content

Public Perception and the “Appearance of Corruption” in Campaign Finance

The Center for Competitive Politics in cooperation with University of Missouri Professor Jeff Milyo included several questions in the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a national representative survey of 55,400 individuals.  The CCES data includes a set of common content questions given to all participants and separate team content questions developed by the University of Missouri and administered to a nationally representative subset of 1,000 persons.  A battery of eight campaign-finance-related questions was included in the Missouri team content; these are listed in full in the appendix.

We examine this data to learn what the average American thought about taxpayer-funded elections, contribution limits, the appearance of corruption, and disclosure. Since not just corruption, but the “appearance of corruption,” i.e. the public’s perception of the severity of corrupt practices in government bodies, has been given weight by the Supreme Court, we felt it was crucial to look at reliable data of a cross section of Americans and try to gain insight into their views, as well as to see how different wordings can skew the results in surveys on these topics.



Filed Under: Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits, Contributions & Limits, Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Disclosure, Faulty Assumptions, Disclosure, Faulty Assumptions, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns

Challenging the presumptions of America’s Fiscal Crisis: Follow the Money

Americans for Campaign Reform, a reform advocacy group chaired by former US Senators Bill Bradley, Bob Kerrey, Warren Rudman and Alan Simpson (of the Simpson-Bowles commission), have recently published a report entitledAmerica’s Fiscal Crisis: Follow the Money detailing the sordid “undue influence of special interest money” on federal legislation and sounded the alarm for campaign finance and lobbying reform. Describing our current private campaign funding system as a “large, structural barrier” to effective reform of the federal budget due to the weight of overbearing special interest money on both campaigns and the legislative process, ACR advocates an increase in transparency and “fair elections” (in other words, “clean elections”) funding as a solution to the fiscal calamity facing the U.S.


Filed Under: Lobbying, Research, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns

Clean Elections & Scandal: Case studies from Maine, Arizona & New York City

On June 27, 2011 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett that the election policies of several states were unconstitutional. Specifically, the Court declared the use of “matching funds,” whereby a privately-financed candidate for political office would be forced to trigger state-granted matching funds for any publicly-funded opponent if he or she spent above a certain threshold, were an unconstitutional demand on a candidate whose speech would be chilled by the mandate.

Filed Under: Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, clean election, tax finance, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Arizona, Maine, New York

Campaign Finance and Federalist 10

In The Federalist number 10, one of America’s most revered political writings, James Madison (1751-1836) made the case that suppression of liberty in order to curb the influence of factions was at odds with American principles. Of course, today’s so-called “reformers” would disagree.

Historians and political thinkers since antiquity have noted the alarming readiness of democratic populations to sacrifice individual liberty for a (usually false) sense of security and stability. It’s an unfortunate reality of human nature that transcends political dogmas the world over and manifests in a number of instructive ways, including, of course, campaign finance issues, whereby large portions of the population are happy to give up certain liberties for the perceived security from “special interests” obtained through increasingly restrictive regulations on free speech.

The Federalist number 10, long regarded as one of the greatest of American political writings, was published in several New York newspapers in November 1787 as part of a series advocating the ratification of the constitution by the state of New York. Its author, constitutional architect and future president James Madison articulated for the ages the problems of faction (or what we would now usually term “interest groups”) and its solution in maintaining a large republic.


Filed Under: Blog

Return on Lobbying Overstated by Report

An April 2009 academic paper titled “Measuring Rates of Return for Lobbying Expenditures: An Empirical Analysis Under the American Jobs Creation Act” has been floating around the web for a couple of years and is occasionally cited for a shocking statistic: it found that firms which lobbied for the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (a tax holiday which led to the repatriation of around $300 billion in profits that U.S. corporations were keeping overseas in order to save money on taxes) saw a 22,000 percent return on their lobbying investments.

Yes that is three zeroes you see there. Who says a dollar doesn’t go far anymore?


Filed Under: Blog

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