Last week I blogged about the IRS prohibition on pulpit endorsements and why it is unjustified.  A couple days later, in a very thoughtful post inspired by the IRS’s recent abandonment of its investigation into the NAACP’s political activities, Bob Bauer went even further:

“Better to do away with the prohibition [on political intervention] altogether, as an illegitimate condition on tax-exempt efforts.  Rather than bloody each other up with complaints, indifferent to the ethics of compliance but hungry for political advantage, progressive and conservative churches and other nonprofits might press jointly for reform–reform in favor of speech, for a change.”

We think Mr. Bauer is right and the issue deserves more discussion.  Conveniently, current events have provided a timely case-study.

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Filed Under: Blog, Kansas

How Valuable is Disclosure?

How Valuable is Disclosure of Campaign Finance Contributions?  The Senate is coming under attack for refusing to pass legislation requiring that Senators campaigns file campaign finance reports electronically.  But the criticism seems to suggest that the case for disclosure is often much weaker than presumed.  Click on the headline to read.

Filed Under: Blog

Burning Down the House Campaign Committees: the Reformers’ Fight Against “Firewalls”

The Supreme Court has said that political party committees have a First Amendment right to speak independently of and in coordination with the candidates they care about.  Exercising both rights has always been tricky.  How does one party committee of finite resources, managed at the end of the day by one executive, have its operation coach, coax and counsel candidates, yet, at the same time, advertise independently?  The answer is "With firewalls"; to subdivide operations within the operation: one political director managing interactions with the campaigns, and another to manage independent expenditures.

If firewalls are good enough for the Washington Post, shouldn’t they be good enough for Rep. Shays and the Reformers?

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Filed Under: Blog

Book Forum at Cato: In Defense of Negativity

John Samples, Director of Cato’s Center for Representative Government, just sent word that Cato will be hosting a book forum on September 20th for Prof. John G. Geer’s new book, In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns (University of Chicago Press, 2006).  Everything you need to know about this event can be found in our News Center, here.

Filed Under: Blog

Politics and the Pulpit

All too frequently, regulation is a scale that balances the arbitrary against the vague.  Decreasing one tips the scale towards the other.  According to campaign finance law, for example, a contribution of $2,100 is wholesome but a contribution of $2,101 is corrupting.  No one really believes this, but arbitrariness is the price we pay for clarity.

Just as often, the scales of regulation are tipped in the other direction.  Regulators will draw a line that attempts to be principled rather than arbitrary.  The result is usually a regulation that is unworkably vague.  One example is the line drawn by the tax code between politics and religion.

Click on the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog

The License in Licensing

Mr Carlson: I had one of my disc jockeys, Dr Johnny Fever, give me the lyrics to a song. He wants to know if you’d let him play that song on the air.
Dr Bob, reading: “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine no possessions[?] Imagine all the people sharing all the world[?]” That sounds like communism to me: if there’s no heaven, and no religion, then, I assume, no God.
Mr Carlson: There’s not an obscene word in here.
Dr Bob: Not the way I see it.
Mr Carlson: Does it go on your list?
Dr Bob: Arthur, this is typical of the kind of secular, liberal humanist point of view that gluts our airwaves.
Mr Carlson: Yeah, but we’re not talking obscenities here anymore, Bob, we’re talking about ideas — political, philosophical ideas. First you censor a word, and then you censor the idea.
Dr Bob: The idea is man-centered. [A]rthur, this song says there’s no heaven.
Mr Carlson: Ah. No, it says just imagine there’s no heaven.
Dr Bob: That’s blasphemy.
Mr Carlson: On the list or not?
Dr Bob: I have no choice but to say on.
Mr Carlson: That decision was made by one man.

— WKRP In Cincinnati, “Clean Up Radio Everywhere”

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

Yes, senator, McCain-Feingold does censor political speech

CCP Chairman Brad Smith answers Sen. Feingold’s assertion that speech is not censored under McCain-Feingold.  Says Smith in today’s Examiner:

Feingold’s position is disingenuous. For just a few sentences after telling us the law “doesn’t ban or censor any speech,” he tells us that McCain-Feingold was necessary to prevent some voices from being “drowned out” by others. As McCain-Feingold does nothing to affirmatively create or encourage speech — it offers no subsidies or platform for political speech — the only way it can prevent anyone’s voice from being “drowned out” is through the suppression of other speech — and that is indeed what McCain-Feingold does, as the senator must know.

Read the entire article from the Examiner


Filed Under: Blog

Can America Survive Half Censored/Half Free? Thoughts on “The Path to 9/11”

CCP Chairman Bradley Smith offers some provocative thoughts on efforts to censor the ABC docudrama, "The Path to 9/11," and notes that demands to censor political speech – which are moving ever closer to the institutional press – are unleashed and supported by campaign finance "reform."

Filed Under: Blog

McCain-Feingold Electioneering Brownout Kicks in Today

The "electioneering communications" provisions of the McCain-Feingold law kick into place today.  This means no union or corporate money may be used to finance any broadcast ad reaching 50,000 people that even mentions a candidate for federal office, nor may an incorporated entity – even non-profit citizens’ groups such as the National Rifle Association, Handgun Control, Inc., Planned Parenthood, Right to Life, or the NAACP run any ads that mention a federal candidate. 

In exchange for surrendering our First Amendment rights, what have we gained?  Do you feel Congress is more ethical than before?  Less attuned to special interests?  Do you feel more empowered, or less empowered, than you did four years ago, when the law passed? 

 Click the headline for the entire post.


Filed Under: Blog

Campaign Finance “Reform” and Voter Suppression

Is campaign finance reform unconstitutional vote suppression? Maybe.  Click the headline to read more.

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

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