Completed Case

How campaign finance laws benefit incumbents and insiders

Bill Maurer, an attorney who runs the Washington chapter of the Institute for Justice, has an excellent op-ed today in the News-Tribune of Tacoma, Washington. He details how Washington state’s absurdly-low contribution limits to recall campaign committees are hindering a grassroots effort to remove an elected official accused of wrongdoing.

Campaign finance laws thwart grass-roots recall efforts

According to self-proclaimed campaign finance “reformers,” the government-imposed restrictions on political speech and participation that they seek are supposed to improve democracy, give the “little guy” a voice and make politics less corrupt.

But the reality of what they achieve demonstrates something much more troubling: Incumbents are protected from challengers, significant barriers to grass-roots activism are erected, and political insiders rule the field and employ these laws to harass and silence newcomers on the political scene. Rather than promote good government, they are usually a barrier to it.

Indeed, right now Washington’s campaign finance laws are one of the principle obstacles in the effort to recall Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam.

Filed Under: Blog, Completed Case, Farris v. Seabrook Other Links, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Washington

CCP releases statement on Danielczyk ruling

Today, Judge Cacheris released a ruling affirming his recent decision in U.S. v. Danielczyk declaring a ban on direct corporate donations to candidates unconstitutional.

In response, the Center for Competitive Politics released the following statement:

“Judge Cacheris has rightly concluded that the First Amendment does not allow the government to discriminate against certain unpopular types of speakers by denying them the right to contribute to the candidates and causes of their choice,” said Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics. “Just as ‘Pitchfork’ Ben Tillman’s legacy of Jim Crow laws has been repudiated, so has the Tillman Act that sought to stifle unwelcome political speech.”

Filed Under: Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Press Releases, United States v. Danielczyk Other Links

Danielczyk Judge Upholds Previous Decision

A week and a half ago, Judge Cacheris created quite a stir by holding a 100-year-old ban on corporate contributions unconstitutional.  It was later found that government lawyers failed to cite controlling precedent on the matter, FEC v. Beaumont, where the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of banning direct corporate campaign contributions.

Judge Cacheris decided to reexamine his decision, which leads us to the next chapter in this saga.  The Judge released a ruling today upholding his original decision, explaining:

…this court will not reinstate the dismissed counts first because Beaumont’s holding applies only to nonprofit advocacy corporations, meaning that it does not “directly control” this case for Agnostini purposes, and the second because Beaumont’s reasoning was supplanted by Citizens United.

Filed Under: Blog, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, United States v. Danielczyk Other Links

Litigating: Federal Government Edition

Will someone please visit Public Integrity to determine what alien life forms are drafting its briefs?

I am personally gobsmacked at what I have seem out of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity section this last two weeks.  For starters, apparently their lawyers could write an entire brief on the law relating to corporate contributions to candidates and NOT CITE LEADING AUTHORITY ON THEIR SIDE.  This litigation, US v. Danielczyk,  involved businessmen who reimbursed employees with corporate funds for making contributions – which is a big no-no.  The corporate contributions aspect of the charges is but a fraction of the total case, so the prosecution would proceed even with the judge’s holding – that corporate contributions are protected under Citizens United – left undisturbed.

For casual readers of campaign finance lore, you should know that the Supreme Court heard and rejected a challenge to the corporate contribution ban brought by an ideological non-profit corporation, in a case called FEC v. Beaumont.  That is, the most sympathetic corporation imaginable asked the Court to find the contribution ban unconstitutional.  The Court said no.

Filed Under: Blog, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, United States v. Danielczyk Other Links

Tillman Act Lives For Another Day?

Fear not, defenders of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman; the law against corporate, union, and associational contributions may (sadly) remain on the books for a while longer.

Filed Under: Blog, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, United States v. Danielczyk Other Links

CCP Submits Amicus Brief in Montana Case

CCP submitted an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court of the State of Montana last week regarding a case challenging the constitutionality of Montana’s law prohibiting independent corporate expenditures.  The ban was struck down by the Citizens United ruling, which found that independent corporate expenditures are protected under the First Amendment.

“Montana’s Attorney General continues to defend a law that blatantly contradicts Citizens United, expending precious state resources in the process,” said CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson.  “Montana is the only state in America that did not conform to the ruling.”

The Attorney General’s brief argues that Montana is specifically vulnerable to corruption and their current laws, which would otherwise violate the First Amendment, are necessary to ensure that the state is not overrun by corporate interest.

“Being a resource-rich state is not grounds for exemption from the First Amendment,” said CCP President Sean Parnell.  “Resurrecting as a bogeyman the long gone Copper Kings doesn’t justify limiting political free speech in Montana.”

“This is a case where one of the fifty states believes it deserves an exemption from the First Amendment, relying on arguments that the Supreme Court has found unpersuasive,” said Dickerson. “The Montana Supreme Court should take this opportunity to emphasize that we live in a nation of laws, and that the Constitution applies everywhere, equally.”

Filed Under: Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Press Releases, Western Tradition Partnership v. Bullock Other Links, Montana

CCP joins National Defense PAC challenge

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) announced today that it joined the legal team representing National Defense PAC in its challenge to unconstitutional Federal Election Commission regulations.

The federal suit, Carey et al v. FEC, asks the FEC to acknowledge what the courts have already decided: that any political action committee may make contributions to federal candidates using limited funds while also engaging in independent expenditures using segregated funds raised for that purpose. The FEC has demanded that grassroots organizations jump through burdensome regulatory hoops just to speak out about candidates running for office.

National Defense PAC, created by retired Rear Admiral James J. Carey, submitted a request to the FEC for an advisory opinion on the matter in August 2010. Previous court rulings, most notably in v. FEC ( was represented jointly by CCP and the Institute for Justice) and EMILY’s List v. FEC, uphold the principle that organizations may engage in both types of political speech and association so long as funds are properly segregated.

The FEC deadlocked on the issue, with three commissioners voting in support of National Defense PAC’s argument. In response to National Defense PAC’s suit, the FEC has argued against injunctive relief, claiming that the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights were not immediately, irreparably harmed based on the PAC’s ability to clone itself and create another organization to speak on its behalf. 

“The FEC response is typical of its disregard for those seeking clarity in their free speech rights,” said CCP Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward. “What they are really saying is, because of their belief that government alone is in the business of regulating when, where, and how people participate in politics, they don’t want to argue this case on the merits. When those are the facts, who can blame them?”

Filed Under: Carey v. FEC Other Links, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Press Releases

No ”Big Sky” for speech in Montana

In the wake of Citizens United, those jurisdictions that had previously imposed campaign spending bans on corporations have had to rethink their state or local laws.

Not the so-called “Last Best Place.”  The Montana Attorney General is defending that state’s expenditure ban.  According to AG Steve Bullock, the state’s 1912 law remains constitutional.  He is arguing that Montana has a different experience with corporate spending, and can show that spending corrupts politicians.

Now, I have said publicly a couple of times that I don’t think Citizens United necessarily controls in jurisdictions where history and experience indicate certain industries or kinds of corporations pose distinctive threats in politics.  Citizens United does require that those jurisdictions have to show that a BAN on independent spending is a tailored response to a genuine threat, and that’s a pretty difficult argument to make. 

What Montana is attempting to argue is that all corporations pose this threat.  Not explicitly – Bullock acknowledges that the state’s corporate expenditure ban comes out of a history of political struggles involving mining companies.  But the litigants in the present case involve a small painting business and a conservative advocacy group – both, as corporations, prohibited from making expenditures in Montana. 

What’s the justification for that?

Filed Under: Blog, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Western Tradition Partnership v. Bullock Other Links, Montana

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion in Yes on Term Limits v. Savage

Download Opinion

Filed Under: Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Yes on Term Limits v. Savage

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