Iowa tax on political speech proposed

In the landmark case McCullough v. Maryland, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” This maxim hasn’t escaped the notice of state Rep. Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque), an advocate of tax funded campaigns.

A state cannot simply ban all private contributions to candidates or causes. Such a law would certainly violate the associational and speech rights recognized in the First Amendment. Isenhart, no doubt mindful of how private donors supposedly undermine his goal of requiring the government to subsidize political campaigns, has suggested a novel idea.

He’s simply proposing to tax every contribution over $250 to any campaign or political action committee at a rate of five percent. His bill, House File 140, would also tax independent ads by political groups at five percent.

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

ACLU sues to protect anonymous political speech in Maine

Given that the United States has a First Amendment, one might think that Maine’s government would not crush dissidents for speaking out against politicians during an election. Sadly, this is not the case, and the Maine Civil Liberties Union filed suit to stop the State’s speech suppression.

In the Pine Tree State, a gubernatorial candidate brought a dissident blog to heel for anonymously criticizing him. The candidate, Eliot Cutler, hauled the creators of the anti-Cutler blog “Cutler Files,” in front of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. The blog cost exactly $91.38 to produce and maintain. The Commission fined the bloggers for anonymously speaking out against Cutler.

Filed Under: Blog, Maine

Federalists for Clean Air

One of the strongest justifications for disclosure laws is the need for  sunlight to operate as a policeman, shedding light on the ne’er-do-wells seeking to stealthily promote a scary agenda behind docile sounding committee names.

For instance, the group Citizens for a Strong National Defense could end up being funded by a dozen Christian pacifists, or  the Committee to Protect the Environment could be funded by a couple  businessmen who believe the Clean Water Act ought to be repealed.

In McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court used this argument to justify the constitutionality of donor disclosure, pointing out that a group called Republicans for Clean Air was actually just two brothers. President Obama has also used this line of reasoning, suggesting that ” a group can hide behind a  name like ‘Citizens for a Better Future,’ even if a more accurate name  would be ‘Companies for Weaker Oversight.'”

Filed Under: Blog

None of your $#%* business

Let’s say that your state passed a law requiring that every individual who cast a vote in an election should expect to have their vote recorded by the government and posted on the Internet, along with their name, home address, employer, and job title. Would you expect voter turnout to increase or decrease?

Silly question, right? Most Americans are pretty quiet when it comes to their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and bosses learning their political beliefs. For many folks, the answer “It’s none of your damn business” comes out when somebody asks who they voted for.

Filed Under: Blog

Disclosure: whales and minnows

The push for robust disclosure of campaign donations is hardly new. The cycle between limiting spending and exposing who has donated has largely dominated the debate on campaign reform for roughly one hundred years. After the generally accepted failure of McCain-Feingold and the Supreme Court’s opinion allowing for corporations to spend directly from their treasuries on independent expenditures, the pendulum has swung back to disclosure.

The campaign regulation lobby typically finds disclosure to be a safe fall-back. The merits of disclosing donations have been widely praised by members of both political parties. Nearly every time the constitutionality of mandated disclosure has come before the Supreme Court, the justices have blessed the practice. The last time the issue came before the Court, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, eight justices approved disclosure’s constitutionality.

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

Been there, disclosed that

A former member of Congress, who helms a campaign reform organization, boldly declared that “[i]t is now an accepted opinion that a contributor to a political committee has no right to secrecy.”  

The reform lobby is backed by the leader of the country’s most prominent labor union, the presidents of the country’s elite universities, former U.S. presidents and major party nominees, state governors, and one of the country’s most brilliant industrialists.

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

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