Archives for September 2008

Do Taxpayer-Funded Campaigns Save Taxpayer Dollars?

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) released today an issue analysis refuting the myth that the cost of taxpayer-financed political campaigns can be offset by removing alleged pressures placed on officeholders by so-called ‘special interest’ contributors.

"The claim that taxpayer-financed campaigns may actually lead to savings for taxpayers is demonstrably false," said Sean Parnell, President of the Center for Competitive Politics.  "These political welfare schemes continue to show themselves to be a poor use of taxpayer dollars with few discernable positive outcomes."

Advocates of taxpayer-financed campaigns like the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) have claimed in the past that public-financing programs would "accrue enormous savings by reducing wasteful expenditures, such as earmarks."  Common Cause, another advocate of taxpayer-financed campaigns, has stated that such programs save "taxpayer dollars by reducing inappropriate giveaways to campaign contributors."

But CCP’s review of the state budgets in Arizona and Maine, the two states commonly cited by proponents as having model public-financing systems, refutes these claims.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Bauer vs. CCP vs. Wertheimer vs. DOJ re 527 Enforcement

Bob Bauer suggests that this post by CCP Legal Director Reid Cox goes off course in its criticism of Fred Wertheimer, who has been trying to threaten folks – and get the Department of Justice to threaten folks – with criminal prosecution for alleged violations of campaign finance laws.  Here it is Mr. Bauer who has, in a rather unusual slip, gone "off course," and a brief response is necessary. 

The quick background is thus:  Fred Wertheimer is complaining that DOJ is not pursuing criminal actions against alleged violators of campaign finance law.  He bases this on a statement by Craig Donsanto, Director of the Election Crimes branch at the DOJ’s Office of Public Integrity, that Justice would not pursue "knowing and willful" violations of campaign finance law for certain activity undertaken by 527 organizations. 

CCP was critical of Wertheimer, with Cox stating:

"Wertheimer does not want the criminal enforcement of the campaign finance laws as they were enacted by Congress and interpreted by the Supreme Court.  Instead, Wertheimer wants to see criminal investigations based on previous FEC enforcement actions that are not-and have never been-supported by either congressional legislation or court interpretation."

Bauer interprets this as CCP arguing, "that disputed rules can be disregarded because some, moved by constitutional scruples, don’t like them."  If that were true, then of course CCP would have gone off course.  But that is not what CCP says. 

For more, click the headline… 

Filed Under: Blog

The criminal proclivities of Democracy 21

An effort to chill independent issue advocacy efforts during the 2008 election by Democracy 21 relies on an unfounded reading of campaign finance law, according to a memo released by the Center for Competitive Politics.

Democracy 21 sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice last week suggesting that independent groups and their major donors should worry about the possibility of a criminal investigation before speaking out ahead of the upcoming election.

Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer specifically asked that U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey "make it clear to the public that knowing and willful violations of the campaign finance laws by 527 groups will be subject to potential Justice Department investigation and prosecution."

"But Wertheimer does not want the criminal enforcement of the campaign finance laws as they were enacted by Congress and interpreted by the Supreme Court," observed Reid Cox, Legal Director at the Center for Competitive Politics and author of the memo.  "Instead, Wertheimer wants to see criminal investigations based on previous FEC enforcement actions that are not-and have never been-supported by either congressional legislation or court interpretation."

"Criminal prosecutions based on independent issue advocacy are rare for good reason," Cox continued.  "Consistent legal precedent ensures protected space for independent issue speech.  There also remains much dispute that the FEC exceeded its authority in bringing those enforcement actions based on new and discredited regulations absent additional legislation from Congress or new decisions from the Supreme Court.

"One would hope that an independent non-profit like Democracy 21, which is ‘dedicated to making democracy work for all Americans,’ would be less hostile to free speech," Cox concluded.

Cox’s memo is the fifth in a series of analysis produced by the Center for Competitive Politics examining the legal and political issues surrounding the advocacy activities of independent groups in the 2008 election.

CCP’s memo regarding The Criminal Proclivities of Democracy 21 is available HERE and additional memos published as part of the Election 2008 Free Speech Project can be found HERE.

Filed Under: Blog

Big pharma veers to the left

Jeanne Cummings’ story on a shift in the political giving of the pharmaceutical industry in Tuesday’s Politico underscores an important point too often ignored in campaign finance debates: campaign contributions primarily follow ideology and do little to influence the way a legislator votes.

Cummings reports that Republican’s are "being denied the lion’s share of the industry’s donations for the first time in six election cycles."


Click the headline to find out.

Filed Under: Blog

CCP Chairman joins The Arena

Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Bradley Smith has joined Politico’s new feature "The Arena."  The Arena is billed as "Politico’s daily debate with policymakers and opinion shapers."

As a "player" in The Arena, Smith will be able to weigh-in daily on the hot policy topics of the day.  But please note that The Arena delves into a great deal more than just campaign finance issues and the opinion’s expressed at The Arena only represent Smith’s personal opinions.

Filed Under: Blog

Guess it depends on who’s listening

On Sunday, the New York Times took the Real Truth About Obama to task for its effort to run its scripted advertisements critical of Sen. Barack Obama’s position on abortion.

The Times likened RTAO’s efforts as "Swift Boat campaigning" that smears the Democratic nominee. The Times further "warned" against the potential "open season for countless stealth groups to flood the remaining weeks of the campaign with underhanded attack ads" if RTAO is granted permission from the courts to run its advertisements.

"Voters do not need a repeat of operatives from both parties running nonprofit shadow operations, fobbing off the most vicious attack ads as innocent issue messages," instructs the Times with utmost moral authority.

But why should citizens fear citizens groups battling back and forth on the airwaves?

In fact, the RTAO issue offers a good example as to why we should not fear the advocacy efforts of outside groups. 

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Pay no attention to those 30,000 people behind the curtain…

There is no shortage of misleading research on issues related to campaign finance, as is demonstrated by the latest bit of methodological manipulation by Public Campaign, a leading voice in the fight for taxpayer-funded political campaigns.

A few days ago I came across this: All Over The Map: Small Donors Bring Diversity to Arizona’s Elections. The study purports to show that "Arizona’s qualifying contribution donors have a different profile than typical big donors giving to Arizona campaigns for those candidates who opt into the private system."

Sadly for anyone hoping to glean useful information, a careful parsing of the language and close look at the methodology and data source reveals that all Public Campaign managed to do is cloud the issue while wasting some vast number of trees and electrons in the process of distributing this nonsense.

Click on the headine above to read more

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog

Brad Smith on WNYC

CCP chairman Brad Smith will be a guest on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show today at 11:25 a.m. to talk about campaign finance issues.  WNYC has the largest public radio audience in the United States.

Click HERE to listen live.


Filed Under: Blog

When to register?

A story in the Louisville Courier-Journal begins, "Recent e-mails from a Lexington public relations executive to Gov. Steve Beshear’s office have raised new questions about what constitutes lobbying…

The executive, Phil Osborne, made a detailed case on behalf of a client, the Plantmix Asphalt Industry of Kentucky, in an e-mail to Beshear’s communications director last month.

Osborne warned of dire implications if policies being written in the Transportation Cabinet resulted in the state doing more road projects with concrete, asphalt’s rival surface.

He sent an e-mail to Beshear’s scheduler the next day asking for a meeting at which the asphalt group could make its case directly to Beshear…

He said state law does not require him to register because the asphalt group hired him for public relations, not lobbying. He said he was only giving an opinion to his friend, Beshear’s communications director Jay Blanton.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.

Filed Under: Blog

CCP receives grant from the prominent Bradley Foundation

The Center for Competitive Politics is pleased to announce it has received a grant from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, WI to support its litigation and public education efforts.

The Bradley Foundation is among the most preeminent philanthropic organizations in America devoted to "strengthening American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles, and values that sustain and nurture it."

Brothers Lynde and Harry Bradley, believing that "the good society is a free society," established the Foundation to preserve and defend "the tradition of free representative government and private enterprise."  Since 1985 the Foundation has awarded more than $530 million to organizations that support its mission.

"The Center for Competitive Politics is grateful to have the support of such an esteemed organization," said Center for Competitive Politics President Sean Parnell. "The grant will help support our efforts to promote the First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly and petition." 

Filed Under: Blog

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