Featuring Luke Wachob and Caleb O. Brown
Massive protests greeted Donald Trump upon his inauguration, but speaking out against the president will require a robust First Amendment. Will the American Left support it? Luke Wachob of the Center for Competitive Politics believes so.
Featuring Luke Wachob and Caleb O. Brown
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
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.
By Brad Smith and Luke Wachob
Democratic proposals to “get money out of politics” have been tried for over 40 years, starting with the institution of campaign-contribution limits and donor-disclosure requirements via the Federal Election Campaign Act in the 1970s. It hasn’t gone as planned.
Notably, comparisons across states find no correlation between campaign-finance restrictions and public corruption, quality of governance or public trust in government. Given how dramatically these laws vary from state to state, this is startling. Eleven states allow individuals to donate any amount to candidates, while other states limit contributions to just a few hundred dollars.
Yet from the start, progressives have insisted on misreading Trump’s anti-corruption message as an endorsement of their failed policies…
Even if you support these policies, it’s silly to say they’re the only way to change the culture of Washington. When Trump says “drain the swamp,” only progressives hear “force nonprofits to disclose their donors” or “add more regulation of political participation.”
For Trump voters, extensive regulation, massive bureaucracy and “the swamp” go hand in hand.
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.
Bradley A. Smith and Luke Wachob
It should go without saying that legal contributions to super PACs or nonprofits to publicize support for candidates or issues are not in the same arena as illegal contributions to candidates given in exchange for explicit favors.
Reputational risks should be considered in every decision companies make, from marketing their products to contributing to nonprofits. Politics is not unique in this respect. Companies may offend certain customers or shareholders by contributing to art museums that put up controversial displays, or theaters that perform controversial plays. Such offending content may even be political in nature.
In most cases, however, companies decide the benefits of being engaged in the community outweigh the risks. They understand that reasonable people will not hold them responsible for every action from every group that indirectly receives a penny from them. Indeed, polling has found that huge majorities believe it is appropriate for companies to engage in politics when their businesses are affected.
Luke Wachob The law has no benefits to justify these extreme costs. Voters gain nothing from knowing the identities of donors to groups that do not support candidates. These are not campaign donations. Without a link from money being spent to a candidate being benefitted, there’s no value in the data. Delaware likely knows that […]
Independent Journal: The Left Screams That There’s Too Much Money In Politics, But They’re Forgetting One Major Thing… (In the News)
Luke Wachob As reality repeatedly contradicts the notion that democracy is for sale, the coalition advocating limits on free speech has begun to fracture. Organizations such as the Brookings Institution and the Brennan Center for Justice have started to recognize that some of the dysfunction in government is caused by the countless rules and regulations […]
Luke Wachob Few people make a habit of reading government websites. They are far more likely to hear about political scandals or instances of corruption through news coverage, from political or membership organizations they belong to, from social media postings, or in conversations with friends and family. If government can restrict any of that speech, […]