By Luke Wachob
For eight years, left-leaning groups like Common Cause, Public Citizen, and the Brennan Center for Justice pressured President Obama to do something, anything about “money in politics.” Despite their pleas, he never took direct action.
They told him to stack the Federal Election Commission (FEC) with pro-regulation commissioners. Instead, he had just two confirmed nominations to the six-member FEC, and one was a Republican. They told him to issue an executive order forcing government contractors to report their donations to advocacy groups and nonprofits. He never did. They told him to prioritize legislation regulating speech by nonprofits, but when the bill died in the Senate, he did not fight to resurrect it.
Both the right and the left expected President Obama to do more to regulate the political process. Instead what emerged was a significant divide between the “reform” community and the Obama administration. That divide illustrates a reality the pro-regulation lobby would rather obscure-that even critics of the current campaign finance system cannot agree on a better alternative.
By Luke Wachob
By Luke Wachob
Under the Obama administration, many Democrats were confident that regulating politics would serve their interests and promote fairness at the same time. Already suspicious that conservative groups played fast and loose with the rules, they imagined that the brunt of new rules would fall on groups like Americans for Prosperity or the National Rifle Association. They also had faith that public disclosure of support for advocacy groups would allow allies to expose and shame donors whose pocketbooks stood in the way of their vision of the common good.
After Election Day, the landscape looks vastly different. Allegations of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia failed to stop Trump’s rise, and failed to intimidate his supporters. Now, the laws that invade privacy to root out “dark money” could be used to make government lists of supporters of increased immigration, LGBT rights, abortion rights or criminal justice reform. And instead of going after groups like AFP or the NRA, liberals may worry about Trump targeting groups like Planned Parenthood or the Sierra Club.
As Republicans ascend to the White House, here’s hoping liberals return to their roots. If they were to join with conservatives, it’s possible they could make free speech great again.
By Luke Wachob
2016 was a surprising year in politics. One surprise that hasn’t received much attention yet is the minimal role played by “money in politics” in the presidential election. One of the best-funded candidates in history, Hillary Clinton, lost to an opponent who raised less than half of what she did. Not just that, but independent supporters of Clinton outspent those advocating for Trump nearly 3-to-1…
Deregulating campaign finance after the 2016 cycle should become less controversial. (Although the pro-regulation crowd and their media cheerleaders will no doubt work hard to prevent that.) Hillary Clinton’s massive fundraising operation showed that regulations don’t prevent prominent politicians from building a “war chest” to scare off challengers. Donald Trump’s victory, despite comparatively little spending, showed how public figures can leverage their celebrity to make campaign finance restrictions irrelevant. Meanwhile, new voices without the benefit of fame are stifled by the same laws supposedly preventing the wealthy from gaining political advantage.
What is left is to liberalize the system so that everyone – not just the Clintons and Trumps of the world – can thrive in politics.
Joan L. Larsen is a Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. She was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder in September 2015 before being elected to the same seat in 2016. We were unable to find any First Amendment cases of relevance that Justice Larsen has ruled on during her year and a half of service […]
Self-Styled Campaign Finance “Reformers” Jump the Shark Ten Stunts, Antics, and Exploits That Show Many Anti-Free Speech Activists Have Lost It By Luke Wachob Introduction What do activists do when the government isn’t prioritizing their cause? What does the head of a federal agency do when she doesn’t get her way? What do “good government” […]
Filed Under: Amending Press Release/In the News/Blog, Amending the Constitution, Blog, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Enforcement, Faulty Assumptions, FEC, First Amendment, Issues, Money in Politics, Research, Super PACs, Super PACs, "John Doe", Ann Ravel, Democracy Spring, Doug Hughes, ellen weintraub, federal election commission, Gyrocopter, Larry Lessig, Mayday PAC, Udall Amendment, Zephyr Teachout, Enforcement, Faulty Assumptions, First Amendment, Enforcement, Faulty Assumptions, First Amendment, Super PACs, Wisconsin
Unsuccessful candidates often blame their loss on an opponent’s spending. Sometimes those complaints are lodged at better-funded candidates, sometimes at the media, and other times at independent groups. So it is with Zephyr Teachout, whose main takeaway from the 2016 election, apparently, is that people talked about it too much. After losing to Republican John […]
Data from the 2016 election continues to undermine a key prediction made by critics of Citizens United in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s famous 2010 ruling. Once again, super PACs are being funded overwhelmingly by citizens, not corporations. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, “A study by the Conference Board’s Committee for Economic […]
Filed Under: Blog, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Issues, Money in Politics, Super PACs, Alan Grayson, Buckley v. Valeo, Committee for Economic Development, President Obama, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, The Conference Board, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal
A shadowy organization based in Washington, D.C., recently spent an undisclosed sum attempting to swing elections in far-off places such as South Dakota and California. Due to a loophole in campaign finance law, this spending does not have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission. That means the public will never know who is […]
By Luke Wachob
The Founding Fathers knew a thing or two about freedom of speech. One, free speech is essential to a flourishing democracy. Two, it can only serve that vital role when speakers are free from retaliation…
With the internet, it’s easier than ever to access and weaponize information about someone’s views on controversial issues. Opinions in the mainstream today may seem radical decades later, but public records of your contributions will live online forever. In a country where civic engagement is on the decline – 2014 saw the lowest voter turnout in 70 years – the threat of an internet mob attacking you, your family, or your business is one more reason to stay silent.
Fortunately, we can roll back this culture of intimidation by taking a page from the Founding Fathers and the civil rights movement. They recognized that if supporters of causes could be bullied into silence, speech could not play its crucial role of challenging the establishment and driving social progress. Let’s vow not only to protect the First Amendment, but also to protect the privacy that keeps speech free.