A wave of businesses distancing themselves from the National Rifle Association is increasing skepticism of corporate political power among conservatives. A recent article in The Federalist argues that corporate political activism goes against “the true spirit of a republic” and amounts to “rule by an unelected elite.” These views overstate the power of corporate executives […]
Washington Examiner: New York City and Los Angeles offer cautionary tales for DC’s ‘Fair Elections Act’ (In the News)
By Luke Wachob
Taking cues from New York City and Los Angeles, also beset by government corruption, a D.C. Council committee has unanimously approved a bill that would inject taxpayer money directly into partisan politics. At a rate of 5:1, taxpayers will be on the hook to “match” (government-speak for quintuple) contributions to politicians, no matter how loathsome they find the candidate…
The organization I work for, the Institute for Free Speech, has conducted numerous studies of the effects of these programs in cities and states across the nation. Repeatedly, we find that they are dogged by corruption and fail to achieve their goals. Adding to our skepticism is the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office, which found that tax-financing programs in Arizona and Maine failed to encourage new candidates or aid challengers running against incumbents…
Once tax financing programs are in place, they are very hard to remove. When benefits fail to materialize, supporters simply demand more money. In fact, both New York City and Los Angeles initially matched contributions at a rate of 1:1. Today, that ratio has escalated to 6:1 in New York and 4:1 in L.A. general elections.
Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes this Sunday sparked speculation over whether the billionaire celebrity might run for president in 2020. Some are intrigued by the possibility of a candidate who could stand on equal footing with President Donald Trump in terms of fame and TV-readiness, while others were dismayed over the prospect of […]
By Luke Wachob
Thanks to the Supreme Court, the government isn’t able to shut down dissenting views today. But private companies? That’s a totally different story. Private entities are not bound by the First Amendment, so when they join forces with government, our speech rights become muddled.
For power-hungry politicians, outsourcing censorship is a means to an end. Pressuring an industry into censoring itself, often with the threat of new laws in the background, can achieve in practice what the government is forbidden from doing directly. The result is the enforcement of conventional values to the exclusion of new or dissenting ideas…
Proponents of further regulating internet speech say they seek only increased transparency in online advertising. That doesn’t square with the Senate’s actions. Fierce condemnations of social media companies, fearmongering about “misinformation” and “fake news,” and misleading legislation titled the “Honest Ads Act” speak to much larger ambitions. They suggest an interest in dramatically curtailing freedom of speech online.
Our response to Russian dissemination of propaganda should punish Russia, not Americans. Rewriting the rules for political speech on the internet – or pressuring social media companies to regulate with a heavy hand – will threaten the future of legitimate, homegrown political movements in the United States.
Washington Post: Danica Roem’s win proves it: We don’t need to restrict campaign contributions (In the News)
By Luke Wachob
Roem outraised Marshall 3-to-1 thanks in part to large donations from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates across the country. This was possible because Virginia is one of just a handful of states that impose no limits on who can contribute, or how much, to a political candidate…
If new political movements are to gain traction, states need to make it easy for candidates to organize, raise funds and speak to voters. The harder it is to campaign, the more the advantages shift to incumbents and well-connected political operatives.
Roem’s success shows how outsiders can benefit from a lighter touch…
Without extensive regulation of the political process, many argue, government is doomed to be dominated by the economically powerful – typically understood as old, white men.
Good news: Reality is not so bleak. Virginia’s freedom for candidates and donors allowed Roem to harness the power of the national LGBT movement. As the Old Dominion welcomes its new delegate, maybe other states should consider adopting its methods.
Let the candidates campaign. Let the donors donate. Let the voters vote. Simple as that.
“If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” – Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310, 349 (2010) The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission struck down a provision of […]
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“[T]he government can have no anti-corruption interest in limiting contributions to independent expenditure–only organizations.” – SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission The product of a 2010 court ruling, “super PACs” have been a boon to citizens wishing to more effectively speak about elections. Legally, they have ensured that Americans do not lose their First Amendment rights […]
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By Luke Wachob
The ability to support causes privately is probably less important to the wealthy than anyone else. People who give millions of dollars to political causes can afford the security they need to be safe from potential harassers. It is the rest of us who might have reason to worry about declaring our political affiliations next to our name, home address, and employer. Yet federal law says that information must be disclosed when a donor gives just $200 to a candidate, PAC, or party.
We should be glad that a small role remains for groups that are unable to comply with the burdens of campaign finance regulations. Forcing citizen groups to operate like PACs would only further alienate Americans from public policy. And in the era of Trump, the benefits of donor privacy are increasingly recognized by progressives.
Surely there are wealthy donors who contribute to nonprofits. But new disclosure rules would barely inconvenience them; they can and do spend most of their political money elsewhere. More importantly, advocacy nonprofits are the best avenue available for average Americans to associate privately in support of a cause without fear of harassment and intimidation. That side of the equation should not be ignored.
Since Citizens United, the landscape of campaign finance law has often been described as a “wild west” where politicians, donors, and interest groups can do as they please. But a new study from the Committee for Economic Development (CED) dispels this myth. Their findings? The overwhelming majority of funds used to speak about candidates are […]
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“The concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment.” – Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 48 (1976) Decided over forty years ago, the landmark 1976 Supreme Court decision, Buckley v. Valeo, remains at […]
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