Three Campaign Finance Media Trends to Watch Out for in 2018

It’s just a few days into the new year – more than enough time for everyone to have begun breaking their resolutions, but not enough to know what exactly 2018 will hold with regard to media coverage of campaign finance stories. Looking at the past year (and beyond) of such stories in the news, however, […]

Filed Under: Blog, Issues, Media Watch, Money in Politics, 2018 Midterm Elections, Out-of-State Donors, Out-of-State Spending, Politico, The Media, Georgia, Illinois

Washington Post: D.C.’s Fair Elections Act would give more power to the powerful (In the News)

By David Keating and Thomas Wheatley
The so-called Fair Elections Act of 2017, a measure that would provide a five-to-one tax financing match to small-dollar donations to D.C. candidates, cleared committee this month. The sponsor markets the proposal as “giving more people a bigger voice.”
That’s nonsense. The bill proposes a grand experiment with unpredictable impact. There’s a good chance that it will turbocharge the power of special-interest groups in D.C. campaigns, giving fewer interests a dominant voice. It also could incentivize fraud, which could lead to a collapse of public confidence.
The proposal is biased in favor of a new form of special PAC. The fine print allows for allocations from labor unions to count as contributions from individuals, and thus may be considered small-dollar donations. The provision not-so-subtly prohibits similar contributions from partnerships and small-business owners. The D.C. ACLU noted “labor unions do not have greater First Amendment rights than other kinds of organizations.” But the potential constitutional defect remains.

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Published Articles, Thomas Wheatley

Washington Examiner: More campaign finance regulation means less political free speech (In the News)

By Joe Albanese   
If Feingold thinks it’s unfair that some people are able to spend more money on elections, is it also unfair that some people can get more attention without spending money at all?
When ordinary people want to express their opinions alongside those of the powerful, they have to raise and spend money to do it. This doesn’t just mean buying advertising time on TV – even posting an internet video or printing fliers requires buying the right materials and equipment. Pooling resources can be an effective way to enhance the voices of ordinary Americans, but these expenses trigger government regulations when they add up.
Yet, campaign finance law only targets certain types of political participation. Before Citizens United, the Obama administration argued in court (at least for a time) that an organization could be forbidden from screening a movie criticizing a presidential candidate. A celebrity or politician can go on TV to criticize that same candidate, however, and face no such legal obstacles. Luckily, the Supreme Court recognized that 501(c) organizations could be an important way for citizens to join together and speak about politics without needing to hire campaign finance attorneys every step of the way. The rich can hire all the help they need – grassroots activists can’t.

Filed Under: In the News, Joe Albanese, Published Articles

New York Post: An Orwellian tale of ‘campaign finance reform’ (In the News)

By Thomas Wheatley
Investigators from the state Department of Justice called the “previously unknown and secret investigation into a broad range of Wisconsin Republicans” John Doe III. The scheme secretly collected hundreds of thousands of Republicans’ personal emails…
The scope of John Doe III was shocking – in fact, DOJ officials could not “discern any limit” to it. More egregiously, the sleazy scheme seemed motived by partisanship…
Americans are led to believe that more government regulation of election campaign speech is key to ensuring fairness. John Doe III says otherwise.
Law-abiding citizens were exercising their free-speech rights. But that was enough for Big Brother thugs to compile a secret dossier on all aspects of their lives.
A vague and complex campaign finance law enabled these abuses. Wisconsinites learned this lesson via an especially terrifying abuse of power and reformed their laws accordingly. Other states would do well to learn from them.

Filed Under: In the News, Published Articles, Thomas Wheatley

Brookings Report Examines How Parties Have Weakened in Relation to Independent Groups

Earlier this month, Jonathan Rauch – a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution – and Raymond J. La Raja – an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst – co-authored a report on the role of political parties and independent, non-party groups in selecting and cultivating political candidates. […]

Filed Under: Blog, Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits Federal, Contribution Limits Press Release/In the News/Blog, Issues, Money in Politics, Super PACs, Brookings Institution, Independent Groups, Jonathan Rauch, Political Parties, Raymond J. La Raja

Arizona State Senator Needs a Dose of Reality on the Negative Side Effects of Banning Marijuana Billboard Messages

Over 20 years ago, Arizona residents legalized the sale of marijuana for medical uses, but just last year, they narrowly vetoed a proposition that would have legalized the substance for recreational use as well. As in many other states around the country, this has been, and remains, a very contentious topic. Understandably, people on both […]

Filed Under: Blog, State Press Releases and Blogs, Advertising, Arizona Legislature, Billboards, David Farnsworth, Marijuana Legalization, Arizona

LifeZette: Did Lisa Bloom Break Campaign Finance Laws by Arranging Pay for Trump Accusers? (In the News)

By Kathryn Blackhurst
Former FEC Chairman Brad Smith pointed to specific requirements of what campaign regulation refers to as “express advocacy” as likely not met by the Bloom effort.
“An independent expenditure has to include express advocacy, per statute. So if the accusers specifically said something like ‘I hope that voters will reject Trump’ that might do it. But it might still be hard to show that that is what the payment was for,” said Smith, who is chairman and founder of the Institute for Free Speech.
“The payment, they would argue, was just to go public with their stories, not to specifically oppose the election of Trump. That was a voluntary comment by the speaker, on her own. No money spent, no violation,” he said.
Smith cautioned, however, that “you wouldn’t need express advocacy to violate the ‘electioneering communication’ rule, but that would require using the statements in paid tv/radio ads of at least $10,000, which I gather is clearly inapplicable here. If coordinated with the campaign, payments would be a contribution to the campaign.”

Filed Under: In the News, Quotes IFS

Cato: Staring at the Sun: An Inquiry into Compulsory Campaign Finance Donor Disclosure Laws (In the News)

By Eric Wang
Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, proponents of stricter campaign finance regulation have increasingly prescribed “disclosure” as an antidote to “dark money” in politics. Advocates of more extensive donor disclosure laws typically invoke Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous maxim that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,” but they seldom acknowledge the harm of excessive sunlight.
This paper urges a more critical and balanced look at the issue, especially concerning disclosure requirements for independent political speech (i.e., speech that is not coordinated with candidates). Of primary focus is the Court’s jurisprudence in this area, which is often invoked to support additional compulsory donor disclosure laws but lacks coherence, especially as it applies to independent speech. Even assuming that the Court’s jurisprudence in this area remains sound, many arguments being advanced for compulsory donor disclosure laws are untethered from the justifications the Court has articulated, rendering them especially susceptible to challenge in litigation. This paper concludes with recommendations on how, and how not, to enact disclosure laws.

Filed Under: Eric Wang, In the News, Published Articles

Censorship and Privacy: Lessons from Alabama

If an elected official views a political advertisement as misleading, or even false, should that politician have the power to prevent citizens from viewing the ad? Although some members of Congress are warming up to the idea of politicians deciding what constitutes an “honest ad,” most Americans with any concern for the future of free […]

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Advertising, Donor Privacy, Doug Jones, False Statement Laws, Google, Harrassment, Internet Speech Regulation, Intimidation, John Merrill, Roy Moore, YouTube, Alabama

Out-of-State Spending Was a Tool for Local Change in Alabama

The Alabama special election for U.S. Senate concluded Tuesday with a win for Democrat Doug Jones. Given the deep-red electoral history of the state, the victory was viewed by many as remarkable. There are a few obvious reasons for Jones’s victory. Republican candidate Roy Moore was already a controversial figure – twice removed from the […]

Filed Under: Blog, Issues, Money in Politics, Doug Jones, Out-of-State Donors, Out-of-State Spending, Roy Moore, Alabama

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