Archives for March 2008

More on New Jersey

New Jersey’s experiment with publicly-financed elections fails to merit any future renewal or expansion, according to the Center for Competitive Politics’ analysis of a report issued Friday by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission on the state’s "clean elections" pilot program.

A review of the pilot project’s stated goals reveals that most were either misguided or undelivered upon in the state’s 2007 experiment with public financing.

Details after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

A ‘Fair and Clean’ Report on ‘Fair and Clean’ Elections?

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has released their report on that state’s recent foray into welfare for politicians, touted by "reformers" as "clean campaigns." I testified at their public hearing in December, and am grateful to see that they briefly referenced my testimony in their report. Specifically, on a list of 35 items labeled as "areas for review" developed from testimony of everybody who spoke, my point was #34 ("End the program because confidence in government did not increase, elections did not become more competitive, special interest influence did not decline, and the cost was exorbitant"). The other 34 "areas for review" fall somewhere between "the program is great" and "the program should be improved by…"

The most striking thing about the report isn’t what it says, but what it doesn’t say. Specifically, this "fact-based" report doesn’t even bother to state whether the program achieved any of it’s stated goals.

More after the jump…

Filed Under: Blog

They said it

A member of the campaign finance regulation community made a rather curious comment in a CQ article on the Millionaires’ Amendment.

Alison Smith, co-chairman of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, defended the Millionaires’ Amendment by asserting, "I think the court will make preserving political speech the highest priority. You can’t make a straight-faced argument that scaling back money in political campaigns enhances free speech.”

Perhaps she will soon apply the same logic to her position on spending limits for government-financed elections and also oppose spending limits on free speech grounds. 

Filed Under: Blog

Do ‘Clean Elections’ Reduce Lobbyist and Special Interest Influence?

CCP compared the number of registered lobbyists in two states with government-financed elections, Maine and Arizona, to see if so-called "clean elections" programs impact the number of registered lobbyists in a state.

Click HERE to read the results.

Filed Under: Blog

Issue Analysis 1: Do ‘Clean Elections’ Reduce Lobbyist and Special Interest Influence?

This CCP report that examines the number of lobbyist registrations in Arizona and Maine, the two states with the longest running public financing programs. Advocates for taxpayer financed campaigns often argue that their programs remove the threat of special interest influence, and presumably the number of lobbyists, but this research shows no relationship between taxpayer financed campaigns and the number of registered lobbyists.

Filed Under: Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, lobbying, lobbyist, Lobbying, Lobbying, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Arizona, Maine

Lacking a quorum, but not lacking the law

An editorial on the FEC stalemate in today’s New York Times suggests that "Lacking a quorum, the commission has been left powerless to issue advisory opinions for candidates, write new reform regulations, open investigations and file lawsuits against violators. The result is a scofflaw’s paradise. The political landscape’s big-money fast lanes are slick enough without having the only traffic controller gone missing."

With all the articles that have been written about this topic, it’s disturbing that the Times continues to peddle the myth that we exist in a lawless age simply because the FEC lacks a quorum.

Bob Bauer has pointed out that the FEC’s lack of a quorum "does not mean that lawlessness will break out all over.  Sophisticated actors know that the law is still the law, and that when the FEC is finally restocked with Commissioners, they are free to pursue the wrongdoing committed during the period of suspended enforcement.  And to the extent that it appears that the mice surfaced while the cats were on furlough, there is the added risk that knowing and willful violations will be suspected and investigated.  Referrals in the worst case will be made to Department Of Justice."

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

The New Vehicle of Choice

A National Journal column published this week worries over the growing trend of 501(c)4 organizations – which unlike 527’s, can, for the most part, avoid disclosure if they avoid express advocacy – as the communication vehicle of choice for those that want to speak out during the 2008 election.

The column includes the usual criticism that 527s, and now 501(c)4s, use "unregulated money" to make "an end run around" BCRA. But this column goes further, suggesting that it all is a "dangerous trend, exacerbated by dwindling judicial and federal restraints."

Less than clear is what is dangerous about the trend.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Controlling the message

Perhaps the most fundamental, if rarely acknowledged, reason that politicians dislike independent spending is that they are not in control of the messaging put forward by the advocacy groups.

Candidates, by their very nature, obsess over the messages coming out of their campaign. Massive sums are spent on polls that tell the candidate what issues to focus on in order to most benefit their candidacy or hurt their opponent’s. Similarly, the polls tell the candidates which issues to downplay and which ones simply do not move the electorate.

Independent expenditures take some of this control away from the candidates and can force them to address issues they’d rather avoid. Sometimes, as in’s "General BetrayUs" ads, the advocacy can even backfire, harming its intended beneficiary.

Perhaps, this is the reason why at least one presidential campaign is discouraging independent expenditures by advocacy groups, while still encouraging coordinated efforts from the same organization.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Marv Johnson (1955-2008)

We at CCP would like to note the passing of an extraordinary fighter who advocated tirelessly on behalf the First Amendment.   Marv Johnson died today at the age of 53.  Though he was taken too soon, we think it important to recognize what Marv accomplished while he was still here with us. 

More about Marv’s life after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Mistakes On The Lake

Bob Bauer and my colleague, Mike Schrimpf, each recently opined about the dire financial and institutional state of the political parties.  While I share their concerns, I think it is instructive to remember that problems can also arise when the pendulum balancing party associational rights and individual freedom swings in the opposite direction.  Recent events in Cleveland provide a troubling example.

More after the jump. 


Filed Under: Blog

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