By David Keating and Thomas Wheatley
Not only is Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) right in calling it a waste of money, but also the measure is nothing more than a grand experiment likely to turbocharge the power of special-interest groups and incentivize fraud by candidates.
For starters, the proposal is biased in favor of a new form of political entity called a “Fair Elections Committee.” The fine print allows for contributions from “membership organizations” (labor unions) to count as small-dollar donations. Candidates who receive financial support from a “membership organization” may still receive public financing, but a candidate who gets a similar donation from, say, a small business won’t. The provision was so blatantly discriminatory that the ACLU of the District of Columbia rightly opposed that provision, saying, “Labor unions do not have greater First Amendment rights than other kinds of organizations.” …
In addition, the measure is obviously an exercise in incumbency protection. An incumbent with an established donor base and prior familiarity with D.C.’s political machinery would have a clear advantage over a political newcomer. The Fair Elections Act exacerbates that advantage by affording incumbents the chance to raise tax-matched donations earlier than challengers who emerge later in the election cycle.
Washington Post: D.C.’s Fair Elections Act would give more power to the already powerful (In the News)
By David Keating and Thomas Wheatley
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.
By David Keating and Paul Jossey
Various interests have seized on Russian chicanery to push “reforms” lacking priority in less neurotic times. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter seeking new rules for online ads. The resulting bill would burden internet speech with suffocating rules, even possibly banning some forms of online speech. Instead of hitting the Russians, the bill instead targets American speech, press and assembly rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. In short, despite the dearth of candidate references in the Russian ads, there is already a rush to chill the world’s most dynamic speech forum…
In the rush to respond, we have to remember the most important values, which are our rights to freely speak, publish, listen, read and watch. That’s the real risk of an irrational response, whether the threats come from new laws or more speech cops at Facebook…
The government should focus on ensuring that our voting machinery is safe from foreign hackers. Protection is also needed to prevent foreign agents from stealing internal candidate campaign communications. But when the issue is speech, we must exercise great caution lest zeal to curb foreign influence instead damages our own free speech rights.
Wall Street Journal: Proposed Legislation to Boost Online-Ad Disclosures Draws Criticism (In the News)
By Julie Bykowicz
Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) introduced a bill last week that proposed online disclosure and reporting requirements for any political entity that spends more than $500 in a given year on a platform that has a major audience…
“The idea that we’re going to allow a group of regulators, a group of bureaucrats to regulate what we will be able to see in terms of social media or other formats offends me and I will certainly oppose that in any way I can,” Rep. Paul Mitchell (R., Mich.) said at a hearing this week about online advertising.
David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which advocates for less campaign finance-regulation, said Mr. Warner’s plan is “basically a campaign finance bill taking advantage of the controversy of Russian speech in our election cycle.”
He said it would make it tougher for Americans to participate in politics by potentially increasing the cost of social-media advertising that small groups use as online companies may pass on the costs of the mandated screening…
The FEC has reopened its comment period on rules for online advertising-something it has largely avoided regulating over the years.
Washington Examiner: McCain joins Dems to regulate Drudge, Google, Facebook political ads (In the News)
By Paul Bedard
The Center or Competitive Politics, for example, “Though purporting to regulate Russia, in fact this regulates Americans. By imposing more broad burdens on Americans’ speech rights rather than targeting foreign interests interfering with our elections, their bill would make America look a little bit more like Russia.”
Center President David Keating said the $500 threshold could prompt websites to set minimum spending on ads much higher to pay for the new manpower they’d need to police ads. And that, he said, could kill small grassroots advocacy.
He also questioned the vague language that ads can’t be “purchased by a foreign national, directly or indirectly.” He said, “We don’t know what that means, but we would not be surprised to see groups opposed to free speech claim that such ads can’t be purchased by any publicly traded company as such companies have many, but an unknown number, of foreign owners.”…
Elections lawyer Eric Wang, with Wiley Rein in Washington explained to Secrets the concerns many have with the legislation.
First, he said, it is way too broad. “The Klobuchar-Warner-McCain bill purports to address a legitimate problem, but its means are misguided. Instead of specifically regulating Internet ads by foreign interests, the bill would regulate all speakers – the vast majority of whom are Americans.”
Wall Street Journal: Proposed ‘Honest Ads Act’ Seeks More Disclosure About Online Political Ads (In the News)
By Byron Tau
In a press conference Thursday, Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mark Warner of Virginia unveiled the Honest Ads Act…
Reps. Derek Kilmer (D., Wash.) and Mike Coffman (R., Colo.) have introduced similar legislation in the House.
The bill still faces an uncertain path through Congress. Many GOP lawmakers have balked at Democratic proposals to curb the flow of money in the political process, with many arguing that such spending is protected by the Constitution’s guarantees of free speech. Ms. Klobuchar hoped that it could be attached to one of the must-pass national security related bills that Congress periodically considers…
David Keating, the president of the Center for Competitive Politics, said the new proposal leaves “many unanswered questions.”
“One thing is clear-it won’t do anything to the Russians, but will certainly hit Americans who want to exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Mr. Keating, whose group argues that political spending is a form of free speech and opposes greater restrictions on money in politics.
Mr. Keating said he was concerned that a lot of grass-roots groups could be affected by the law, and that the fear of liability or running afoul of the law may turn social media platforms like Facebook into a “government speech cop.”
By Michelle Casady
Trainor has previously represented conservative group Empower Texans, which has fought the Texas Ethics Commission on the disclosure of political donors.
But David Keating, president of the nonprofit group Center for Competitive Politics, an organization whose stated mission is to “promote and defend First Amendment rights” said there is a big difference between being a lawyer, paid to advocate for your client, and being a commissioner on the FEC. Naysayers may be conflating the two, he said.
Keating, who said he has met Trainor on a few occasions while in Austin testifying before the Texas Ethics Commission, said Trainer is “very knowledgeable” on election law.
“There are groups that don’t like him, so they’re trying to dig up what they can to make it controversial,” he said. “Trey clearly is someone who believes in free speech. I think he’s going to apply the law as it’s written and not come up with a hair-brained interpretation of what the law is.”
Keating said that although it is historically not common, senators have been able to block some “highly qualified” candidates for the post in the past, such as one put forward by Obama who had to withdraw his nomination, he said. He said he doesn’t think that will happen in Trainor’s case.
By Jack Crowe
There were 9,791 registered lobbyists at the end of June, the lowest number at any point since 2008, and special interest spending on lobbying reached its lowest point in the last decade in the second quarter of 2017, according to a Boston Globe review of the last decade of lobbying data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Trump administration’s legislative agenda has been marred by a failure to achieve a bipartisan coalition on major legislative priorities. The failure of GOP leadership to whip the necessary votes required for Obamacare repeal in early July likely serves as a signal to special interests that the legislative arena will remain resistant to major breakthroughs for the foreseeable future.
“There’s nothing happening,” Center for Competitive Politics President David Keating told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The fact that nothing is really happening, no legislation is really going anywhere, which means that no one feels the need to ramp up. The biggest bill that came down the pike was the health care bill and nothing came of it.”
By Alex Swoyer
Some of the world’s biggest tech companies pleaded with the Supreme Court this week to update decades-old precedent governing telephones, saying that cell-tracking technology threatens Americans’ most fundamental privacy rights…
Lower courts have split over whether data held by a third party is protected, and Selina MacLaren, an attorney for Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said there’s a lot of excitement surrounding Carpenter’s case.
She said the case could even affect the way reporters go about their jobs.
“This type of surveillance threatens to reveal where journalists go and where their sources go,” she said.
David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, said he feared governments trying to monitor Americans engaged in other First Amendment activities such as freedom of association.
“In many respects, this is potentially a lot more serious than all the concern about the NSA telephone call records and where they’ve analyzed calls being made overseas and such, because this is tracking movements of U.S. citizens in the United States and the government being able to get that information without having to get a warrant,” said Mr. Keating.
SiriusXM Patriot: David Keating on The First Amendment in the Social Media Age David Keating, President at the Center for Competitive Politics, speaks with Tom & Deneen Borelli about the First Amendment, Elected Officials and Social Media in light of lawsuits being filed by the ACLU on behalf of constituents who have been blocked by […]