Archives for June 2008

Stevens: Politics Shouldn’t be as Tough as Beanbag

 Yesterday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the "Millionaire’s Amendment" was a great victory for the First Amendment (you can read CCP’s amicus brief on the case here), strengthening earlier decisions by the court rejecting the notion that Congress can infringe on First Amendment rights in order to "equalize" speech by competing candidates.

Reading the dissent by Justice Stevens, however, should send a chill down the spine of anyone who values political speech free of government management. In his dissent, Stevens explicitly endorses the idea of limiting the quantity of speech in politics. Apparently, all of the ads filling the airwaves encouraging voters to support one candidate or oppose another, or care about this issue or that one, hurt the Justices preference for an "orderly debate," as he puts it.

"… the imposition of reasonable limitations would likely have the salutary effect of improving the quality of the exposition of ideas," Stevens writes. "After all, orderly debate is always more enlightening than a shouting match that awards points on the basis of decibels rather than reasons."


More after the jump

Filed Under: Blog

Thoughts on Davis

Before McCain-Feingold even became law, First Amendment and campaign finance attorneys knew that its wreckage would keep them busy for years to come. 

"I feel like the tow truck driver who just heard about the 100-car pileup on the freeway," said respected campaign finance attorney Jan Baran.

Today, the Supreme Court removed more of the debris caused by the law when it issued its decision in a case challenging the so-called Millionaires’ Amendment provisions of McCain-Feingold.

The court’s decision had the potential to impact campaign finance jurisprudence even more profoundly -either positively or negatively – than last summer’s successful challenge to McCain-Feingold’s "electioneering communications" provision. 

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Millionaires Amendment ruled unconstitutional

via SCOTUSblog

Filed Under: Blog

We’re not corrupted by contributions because we’re the good guys…

Earlier today I ran across this article in the Chicago Tribune about some fussing over the Reform Institute, Senator McCain, disclosure, and some of the Institute’s contributors.

A few key passages from the article…

Allies of Sen. John McCain opened a Washington think tank in 2001 to promote transparency and accountability in government…

For the next seven years, the non-profit Reform Institute churned out position papers and offered expert testimony on campaign finance reform, the need for bipartisanship and other issues, frequently supporting McCain’s positions.

But behind the scenes, the institute’s practices have at times arguably been at odds with its reformist message, and with McCain’s political identity as an enemy of special interests. In fact, the Reform Institute has stretched and may have broken rules governing charitable organizations…

In 2003 and 2004, a telecommunications company with business before the McCain-led Senate Commerce Committee contributed a total of $200,000 to the institute. The contributions were solicited by Rick Davis, a veteran Washington lobbyist who was president of the institute from 2003 through 2005 and who is now McCain’s campaign manager.

Apparently miffed that anyone might conclude large, unregulated contributions to an organization closely affiliated with a politician could possibly influence that politician, a member of the Reform Institute’s Board of Directors has passed along to Professor Rick Hasen a letter to the editor that the Tribune declined to publish. Below is my modestly edited version of that letter (click here for the full original text).

To the Editor of the Chicago Tribune:

I have been proud to be involved with the Reform Institute since its inception, and I am dismayed by the baseless allegations leveled against the Institute in the Tribune’s June 17 article…

The Reform Institute is [an important organization doing good work. How dare you accuse us of any impropriety? Everyone knows only contributions to *bad* groups and politicians are corrupting].

… The Institute was proud to have the support of Senator John McCain as it played a key role [by spending money to support efforts] enacting landmark campaign finance reform legislation [*good* legislation, easily identifiable as legislation supported by Sen. McCain and those who agree with him – as opposed to *bad* legislation, which is anything Sen. McCain opposes and everyone knows is only favored by special interests]…

The article [dares to insinuate a link between large unregulated contributions and the decisions of an elected member of Congress. Where on earth do you get an idea like this? Oh wait, I get it now…]

The article is riddled with inaccuracies and does disservice to an organization doing substantive policy work [as opposed to organizations doing insubstantive policy work, such as by opposing "reformers" and other good people].

Charles E.M. Kolb
Member, Reform Institute Board of Directors


There is an old saying, "Live by the sword, die by the sword." In this case, I suppose that can be modified to "Live by the silly argument, get embarrassed by the silly argument."

Filed Under: Blog

Millionaire’s Amendment Decision

Supreme Court’s ruling in Davis v. FEC

Filed Under: Legal, Legal Center, Completed Cases (Litigation), Completed Cases (Opinions), Litigation, Opinions

Supreme Court overturns Millionaire’s Amendment

The Supreme Court overturned the so-called Millionaire’s Amendment provision of the "McCain-Feingold" campaign finance law in a decision issued by the court today.

"The First Amendment secured an important victory today," said Bradley A. Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, which filed an amicus brief in the case.  "The Court reaffirmed that Congress cannot use campaign finance regulations to ‘level the playing field.’"

More after the jump

Filed Under: Blog

Bad News for Free Speech on the Radio

According to the conservative news outlet Human Events, Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports the return of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" in talk radio, and will not bring to the floor a bill by Representative Mike Pence of Indiana that would prevent the return of this speech-censoring policy. 

It is clear that this policy is aimed at silencing conservative voices on talk radio (there’s a reason the policy is also referred to as "Hush Rush"), and that alone should be enough to kill it outright if we lived in a country that respected free speech rights, and particularly free political speech.

Unfortunately, there is a school of thought in America that believes political speech needs to be "managed" in order to make things "fair," and the government should be given the authority to decide who gets to speak, for how long, where, how, and to whom. Campaign finance "reform," the "Fairness Doctrine," it’s all part of the same school of thought. 

Given that the "Fairness Doctrine" is aimed directly at silencing or at least reducing conservative talk radio, I wonder if the "progressives" backing government speech-control have considered how this proposal would impact those radio outlets that air "progressive" shows? 

More after the jump

Filed Under: Blog

Davis due tomorrow

Via SCOTUSblog, we learn that Davis v. FEC was not issued today and that all remaining opinions will be issued tomorrow. Tom Goldstein predicts that Alito is writing the Davis decision.

Filed Under: Blog

More Victims of “Reform”

Every issue of CCP’s monthly newsletter for our donors, Speaking Freely, includes a feature titled "Victims of ‘Reform.’" Typically, it tells the tale of citizens harassed, intimidated, or punished by campaign finance regulations for simply trying to exercise their First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly, and petition.

A recent example profiled in Speaking Freely was James Hollowell, who paid for a newspaper advertisement critical of a local school spending referendum but failed to register as a political committee as state law required. The local district attorney investigating the matter told local media that "It’s… a citizen who had strong feelings about the referendum and just had no idea that those campaign finance laws that you hear about now and then even remotely applied to a citizen who just wanted to exercise his constitutional right to free speech."

Hollowell and others who run afoul of campaign finance laws tend to be among the more visible victims of "reform." A few recent stories have brought to light another type of victim, vendors who cannot get paid after a campaign ends.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Welfare for Politicians Rejected in New Jersey

CCP spent a great deal of time recently seeking to educate lawmakers and activists in New Jersey about the failures and dangers of taxpayer funded political campaigns. I went and testified to the New Jersey General Assembly’s State Government Committee two weeks ago, and last week sent a letter to members of the Budget Committee and also participated in a conference call with hundreds of grassroots activists.

Over the weekend, we heard our efforts were successful – a bill authorizing the expansion and extension of New Jersey’s pilot project has been pulled from consideration, and won’t be considered again until the fall. The powerful combination of CCP research, grassroots activists contacting their legislators, and legislators willing to listen to their constituents and paying attention to the facts laid before them, was too much for so-called "reformers" to beat.

Welfare-for-politicians has a nasty habit of rising from the grave to suck taxpayer dollars from the public treasury, and no doubt the "reformers" will be back with another plan this fall. Fortunately I’m a fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and CCP will continue to produce lots of sharp, pointy sticks (Policy Briefings, Issue Analysis, public testimony, and more!) to hand to concerned citizens and legislators in New Jersey so they can finally drive a stake through the heart of this program.

Filed Under: Blog

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