Archives for April 2009

A quick note re: 11 CFR 100.22(b)

Professor Rick Hasen of the Election Law Blog directs readers to footnote 30 of the Republican Commissioners’ statement of reasons in the Americans for Job Security matter, which, to Hasen, “looks pretty clearly … that the 100.22(b) test is being read in light of WRTL [II].”

Click on the headline to see why there is a “reasonable interpretation other than” to believe Republican Commissioners are four-square behind the enforcement of the questionable 11 CFR 100.22(b).

Filed Under: Blog

Taking the ‘reform’ pitch about money in politics

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson was once the editorial page editor for the Virginian-Pilot before serving in the Reagan Justice Department and then being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.  Boy, do we wish he was still editorializing at his old newspaper, especially on campaign finance.

That’s because Judge Wilkinson gets it, as he proved last May when he authored one of the most significant and thorough campaign finance decisions in recent memory.  Sadly, we cannot say the same for the Pilot‘s current editorial board.

On Sunday, the Pilot published what amounts to nothing more than a knee-jerk editorial bemoaning that “[b]ig money [has] arrive[d] in Virginia politics” — thus taking the pitch always thrown by the so-called “reform” community.

To read more about how the Pilot struck out by taking the “reform” pitch, click the headline.

Filed Under: Blog

New Jersey Star-Ledger on campaign finance “reform”

The New Jersey Star-Ledger weighs in today with an editorial decrying the failure of so-called campaign finance “reform” to level the playing field, mostly due to that pesky First Amendment. The cause of the latest teeth-gnashing and garment-rending by New Jersey’s campaign finance “reform” community is Governor John Corzine’s decision to once again self-fund his campaign, while the two candidates vying to challenge him in the general election this November are apparently both planning to take taxpayer funding.

New Jersey’s system of taxpayer financing for gubernatorial candidates long predates their recent failed “clean elections” experiments, having been passed in the wake of Watergate. The Star-Ledger writes fondly of those early days and the promise they held:

When the campaign-funding reform movement began back in the 1970s, the first Federal Campaign Act represented an honest effort to level the playing field. Contributions would be made public and, more important, they would be limited.

Then came Buckley vs. Valeo… James Buckley… asked the court to permit him to contribute as much of his own money as he wanted to his campaign to represent New York in the U.S. Senate. The Supreme Court promptly sided with Buckley on First Amendment grounds and carved out an exception to the limits for those who self-finance.  

Click here to read more about the annoying failure of campaign finance “reform” in New Jersey

Filed Under: Blog, New Jersey

More fantasy than fact in Fair Elections Now Act

Congress is currently considering proposals to enact taxpayer-financed political campaigns for members of the House and Senate, the so-called Fair Elections Now Act. Although they’ve apparently chosen a new friendly name (who could be opposed to “fair elections,” after all), the Fair Elections Now Act is the same failed “clean elections” scam with different bells and whistles.

We’ve done a fair amount of research and commentary on the failures of the so-called clean elections schemes in Arizona, Maine, and New York City that the Fair Elections Now Act is based on. Just recently I wrote about New York City’s Campaign Finance Program, which offers matching funds to candidates in a manner similar to what is proposed in the Fair Elections Now Act. Needless to say, this has turned out to be a huge benefit to incumbents and the politically connected.

Over the weekend, the Kennebec Journal in Maine ran an article proudly noting that Maine’s own “clean elections” program is a model for the Fair Elections Now Act. As usual, supporters of the program touted its success in terms of the number of candidates participating.

But what caught my eye were the comments of Malory O. Shaughnessy, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, who said the program “…has really improved the caliber and the diversity of who we have in Augusta.”

Click here for more

Filed Under: Blog

A ‘Lantern’ of light for independent political speech?

Earlier this month the Federal Election Commission made public its decision not to proceed with any investigation against a 527 group named The Lantern Project, which had run issue ads about then-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) during his 2006 general election battle against now-Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).

As Professor Hasen noted on his Election Law Blog, this ruling may be “A Huge Development in FEC 527 Enforcement” because, “[i]f this is going to be the standard for what 527s can do in the next election without running into the danger of being classified as a political committee, I expect the next few elections will see great growth in this activity.  I think this ruling will take a lot of fear away from potential 527 donors in the next election.”

Here at CCP, we can only hope that is the signal being sent by the FEC through this ruling.

Click here for more

Filed Under: Blog

AEI Press Releases New Campaign Finance Reform Book by Wallison & Gora

AEI Press has announced the release of Better Parties, Better Government: A Realistic Program for Campaign Finance Reform, by Peter Wallison and CCP Academic Advisor Joel Gora.  The authors demonstrate how deregulation of the campaign finance system – in particular removal of restraints on political parties, can alleviate many of the ills that traditional command and control reform have failed to solve, and have indeed exacerbated. 

To read more click here

Filed Under: Blog

We Suppose She’s Against the Fair Elections Now Act

This week the FEC was unable to muster a majority to deal with an advisory opinion requested by International Exchange Inc., which wanted to know if it could encourage managers and shareholders to contribute to it’s political action committee, ICE PAC (very clever), by making a two for one matching donation to a charity.

Citing a long line of opinions allowing dollar for dollar matching contributions to charities if an employee contributed to the PAC, the FEC’s three Republicans voted in favor of allowing the activity. The three Democratic Commissioners, however, were opposed. According to BNA’s Money & Politics Report:

“The three FEC Democrats balked, however, arguing that the program envisioned by ICE provided such a great incentive that it could induce PAC contributions that would not otherwise be made.

“FEC Democrat Ellen Weintraub argued especially strenuously during a commission meeting that approval of the proposal by ICE would undercut a key principle of campaign finance law that money given to PACs and campaigns must be contributed ‘voluntarily’ by the donor.”

We presume these Democrats also oppose the Fair Elections Now Act, which would provide 4 to 1 matching government grants for small campaign contributions, on the grounds that such contributions would not be voluntary by the donor. We further presume that they oppose any tax financing plan that includes incentives for candidates to participate, as being involuntary and therefore unconstitutional under Buckley v. Valeo.

Filed Under: Blog

Campaign Finance Reform for Third Graders: Rep. Weiner v. Tracy Flick?

The New York Daily News has an item in the ongoing tit-for-tat fued between New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rep. Anthony Weiner, who has criticized the mayor for running self-funded campaigns.

It’s not often that campaign finance “reformers” make statements as patently ridiculous as this gem from Weiner, but it almost slips by without notice at the end of the story:

“He lost an election in the third grade because his rival handed out lollipops — a moment [Weiner] called ‘his first lesson on the need for campaign finance reform.'”

There’s an indication Weiner’s comments came during a “lighter” period in his speech, but the nugget has a punch to it because of Weiner’s incessent criticism of his potential mayoral rival’s campaign funding.

Third graders doling out lollipops, corrupting the process? Did Weiner go to school with Tracy Flick? If it were up to campaign finance “reformers,” perhaps student body elections would be overseen by a Student Election Commission, which could limit campaign donations to two pieces of poster board, one marker and three stickers per student volunteer. Campaigning could be limited to lunch and recess periods only.

click here to read more

Filed Under: Blog

What will $24 Million in New York City’s taxapyer-financed campaigns get you?

A few weeks ago Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced the “Fair Elections Now Act,” the most recent version of so-called campaign finance “reform” to challenge the First Amendment (trying to roll over the First Amendment is nothing new for Senator Specter, who in the Fall of 2007 introduced a bill to change the First Amendment to exclude campaign contributions from its protection).  

Although the new euphemism is apparently “fair elections,” this is basically the same so-called “clean elections” scheme that “reformers” have been pushing around the country for the past several years, handing out taxpayer dollars to politicians to pay for their campaigns instead of relying on the private, voluntary contributions of citizens.

In the course of researching and analyzing the Fair Elections Now Act proposal, I’ve been reading up on New York’s City’s taxpayer financed campaigns program, which has some similar aspects to the Fair Elections Now Act. Specifically, New York City will match $6 to $1 the first $175 of any contribution made to a participating candidate, provided the donor lives in the city limits or for city council races, in the district. The Fair Elections Now Act has a similarly generous (i.e. wasteful) match, this one providing $4 in taxpayer funds for every $1 raised privately.

There’s a tremendous amount of information available on New York City’s program, much of it helpfully provided by the city’s Campaign Finance Board in their official reports. For example, the report on New York City’s  2005 election reveals that the approximately $24 million in taxpayer money was distributed to candidates. So what did that $24 million buy?

Click here for more

Filed Under: Blog, New York

North Carolina makes case against “tough” enforcement of campaign finance laws

Much has been said (demanded, even) recently regarding the subject of the Federal Election Commission and their enforcement of campaign finance laws. So-called campaign finance “reformers” demand that the FEC act swifter and more decisively, not to mention more severely, to punish transgressions from their interpretation of campaign finance laws. Laws, it might be noted, that they generally think too weak to begin with and regularly urge be tightened to squeeze any unregulated political speech out of the public square.

For our part, we at the Center for Competitive Politics note that there is often great ambiguity in campaign finance laws, and even those attempting to comply with limits and regulations on money in politics can find the requirements not only burdensome, but also confusing. Severe, swift and decisive action by the Federal Election Commission is sure to punish many who fall afoul of campaign finance laws not through deceit or even carelessness, but through confusion.

Yesterday in the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina featured a report by Justin Martin, a PhD candidate in journalism at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, on just how challenging it apparently can be to properly fill out campaign finance forms. From the story:

Combing through campaign finance data is sometimes like sorting through the Soviet archives; the more you dig, the more you realize how many things went wrong.

…By my calculations, 23 representatives, nearly one in five, filed campaign expenditure forms for the 2007-2008 election cycle that were off by more than $1,000.

Click here to read more

Filed Under: Blog, North Carolina

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