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.
By David Keating and Paul Jossey
By Paul Jossey
In the Supreme Court’s closely watched redistricting case, the Court’s progressive justices queried the counsel for the Wisconsin Legislature for unseemly motives, aware a favorable ruling would boost the state’s Republicans. As Justice Elena Kagan stated: Legislators think “often – not always – but often about [future] elections …and they use methods in order to ensure that certain results will obtain not only in the next one but eight years down the road.”
Yet these same justices dispel similar dubious motives in campaign finance cases. By deferring to legislators writing campaign rules, the justices miss the same interplay between law and the desire for power and reelection. Incumbents use both campaign rules and gerrymandered maps to preserve power…
That the Court should accept lawmaker estimates on their corruptibility via contribution or other speech limits is absurd. Applying economic principles to legislative behavior reveals that, not corruption, but self-preservation usually guides these limits.
By handicapping challengers, the limits themselves “corrupt” lawmakers by enabling safer districts. The court’s progressives would be wise to consider the motives of those writing the rules in future campaign finance cases.
The Federalist: How Fake ‘Transparency’ Laws Fuel Mobs That Attack Private Citizens For Free Speech (In the News)
By Paul Jossey
A multi-million-dollar industry exists to convince (and force) Americans to accept political transparency as indispensable and privacy as dangerous. Disclosures have their place, but advocates of these policies-rarely targets themselves-ignore their price and limited place in the constitutional system.
In nonprofit advocacy, disclosure often enables harassment and intimidation for those whose stances clash with nation’s cultural elite. Historically, such disclosure also aimed to deter those who pushed for social change and civil rights…
Disclosure laws are supposed to monitor government, not private citizens. The public should know if a corporation, union, or wealthy individual with business before Senator X’s committee spends millions advocating his reelection. But the First Amendment protects nonprofit donors from public glare in part because they may take unpopular or controversial stances…
Two centuries ago, Tocqueville marveled at America’s organic, spontaneous civil society. Today more than one million groups thrive under our donor-protected system. Subjecting these donors to the harassment of today’s continual outrage machine serves no legitimate ends.
By Paul H. Jossey
In Washington, Ravel tried to remake the FEC into FCCP-East. A bureaucrat-dominated colossal that overreached, bullied, and pursued “social goals” in the name of democratic integrity. But Washington isn’t California…
Since 2007, the Supreme Court has deregulated much campaign finance on constitutional grounds. What remains are often hard cases where fundamental philosophical differences arise.
Those who file complaints to trigger FEC investigations have the right to appeal to lifetime-appointed judges in the event of 3-3 ties. If the commission dismisses a complaint, even by a tie, the judiciary can order the FEC to act on the case or provide an explanation acceptable to the court.
Strong democratic oversight also protects the system. If the political branches shared Ravel’s concerns, they could restructure the agency. Some in Congress do want the FPPC model. But their inability to garner requisite support is a matter of politics not agency dereliction. Put simply, people above Ravel’s rank don’t share her sky-is-falling view.
By Paul H. Jossey
Cyberspace has also reduced the relevance of government censors who oversee old-style political communications. But it also raises questions about whether the new boss, Silicon Valley tech giants, will be worse than the old. As political speech evolves, new threats emerge as old ones cling to power. The fight for free political speech isn’t over, but it has changed, and we must remain vigilant lest our freedom slip…
The Internet is an incredible human achievement. It has done more to ensure freedom and human rights than any government agency ever could. But such freedom is insecure when would-be censors exist either inside or outside government. We can guard against them by ensuring that government policy and technological processes preserve the right to speak, offend, ridicule, hate, or lie without sanction. Congress should codify Internet freedom – as in many important respects it already did when it passed the Communications Decency Act in 1996 – by amending the FEC’s enabling statute. Further rulemaking on the scope of the Internet exemption granted by the FEC would reduce the power of recalcitrant agencies to ignore it.
By Paul H. Jossey
While Weintraub accuses McGahn of refusing to accept the law, her actions show a disdain for Citizens United unbefitting her role. She penned an op-ed titled “Taking on Citizens United” where she seeks to “blunt its impact” with proposals that are almost certainly unconstitutional. She has absurdly misrepresented it as stating, “corporations are people” to sow public confusion. And she has used its guise to hold political-advocacy conferences at the FEC – making disturbing xenophobic overtures based on unproven charges that aliens might be influencing U.S. elections…
Beyond disdain for Supreme Court rulings, Weintraub is loath to follow the FEC’s own regulations. For example, along with fellow Democrat Ann Ravel, Weintraub has repeatedly refused to apply the FEC’s decade old regulations exempting much internet activity from regulation. The regulation is valid. Weintraub simply no longer likes it…
Another FEC doctrine Weintraub often ignores is the media exemption. Over the past few years, she and the other Democrats have refused to apply the exemption to network debate rules, a documentary filmmaker, or a book publisher.
The Federalist: Despite Investigations, Obama’s IRS Has Never Stopped Targeting Conservatives (In the News)
By Paul Jossey
Evidence suggests targeting will continue and indeed spread -even assuming the IRS henceforth uses objective criteria to approve tax-exempt applications.
It is important to note the structural factors that caused the scandal and assess the likelihood of recurrence. As Kimberly Strassel documents in “The Intimidation Game,” the Citizens United case fueled a cauldron of pressure on federal agencies having regulatory authority over political speech. The president, Senate Democrats including Chuck Schumer, Max Baucus, and Sheldon Whitehouse, and campaign finance reform groups blitzed the federal apparatus to stop uninvited political speech…
The IRS got the message and “fixed it.” Yet the same forces “up in arms” over Citizens United are still “screaming.”
Paul H. Jossey
Polls show most people view political spending negatively, as an ill-defined corruption. Candidates notice. Many presidential candidates this year heaped scorn upon “big money,” Super PACs, “dark money,” and so on.
That politicians would embrace popular, feel-good platitudes in an attempt to win support is unremarkable. More interesting is how these former candidates who want more speech limits behaved when the pressure to win conflicts with their rhetoric…
Dan Malloy became the first Connecticut gubernatorial candidate to take public campaign funds. His $6.5 million taxpayer haul included a sworn promise to forgo private contributions over $100. But when reformer bona fides collided with a close reelection, rules became optional. State Democrats helped their vulnerable candidate spending over $300,000 on mailers using prohibited cash.
One corollary to the political-money obsession is the complaint that Federal Election Commission enforcement for alleged wrongdoers is too feeble. Critics say its bipartisan structure hampers its ability to regulate all this spending. But the commission’s structure is no accident. As the Center for Competitive Politics noted last year, it was part of the fallout from President Nixon’s partisan skullduggery. Nixon built an enemies list. The White House implemented a staff memo to “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”
Despite the ominous history, progressives insist campaign regulation requires a strongman. A fearless enforcer, imposing Congressional will. Someone who will take the law to its most speech-limiting extreme. And leave pesky constitutional concerns to others…
But power when regulating campaign speech is no virtue. Congress need not enact WTPA to see this model’s deleterious effects. Our democratic laboratories already created one.
Paul H. Jossey But even without the most recent blowups, New York City’s small-donor funding program has failed. Abusing the system has become routine. Candidates have collectively funneled millions to family and friends running nonprofits. They have evaded contribution and expenditure limits by laundering through companies, unions and straw donors. The program has had effects […]