Archives for March 2010

Campaign finance balance in the Boston Globe

Considering my fastidious fisking of a recent Boston Globe story on taxpayer financed campaigns in Maine, I feel obliged to point out a delightfully balanced story on the Bay State’s efforts to conform their laws and regulations to Citizens United.

In today’s edition the Globe dispassionately explains efforts by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance to conform their regulations to reflect the Supreme Court’s January ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The tightly-written story avoids the corporate demagoguery present in many other pieces on the aftermath of Citizens United and explains that union independent spending—long legal in Massachusetts—accounted for 94 percent of the $4 million in independent expenditures in 2006.

“The change levels the playing field between corporations and labor unions, who in Massachusetts faced no such restriction and for years have provided heavy support for Democrats,” according to the Globe.

Filed Under: Blog, Massachusetts

Corporate campaign spending doesn’t matter



Filed Under: In the News

Citizens United challenges the strident side of Supreme Court ruling




Filed Under: In the News

‘Special interests’ help ‘clean elections’ candidates raise money in Maine

Jeff Patch yesterday did a superb job breaking down a Boston Globe story on Maine’s “clean elections” program. One additional item from that story was this:

Former House speaker John Richardson has enlisted unions that endorsed him—including state troopers and police, plumbers, and pipe-fitters—as a source of fund-raising manpower.

Aside from that one sentence, though, there is no other mention in the article of this activity much less an acknowledgment that such practices are wholly contrary to what so-called campaign finance “reformers” have been saying is one of the primary purposes of such programs, which is to get “special interests” out of politics.

We at the Center for Competitive Politics have been pointing out for quite some time that these “clean elections” schemes encourage or even force candidates to rely heavily on organized interest groups to help raise “qualifying contributions.” I guess we’ll just chalk this news article up as one more piece in the ever-growing mountain of evidence that “clean elections” just don’t deliver what they promise.

Filed Under: Blog, Maine

A ‘clean elections’ report from Maine

Today I stumbled across the statement of Lynne Williams, who recently dropped out of the race for Governor of Maine. She had been running as a member of the Maine Green Independent Party. Her comments on “clean elections” I found particularly interesting:

 …our volunteers were also initially diverted from signature gathering by the additional requirements of the Maine Clean Election Law, requirements imposed by the Legislature in 2009, after I announced my candidacy.

By eliminating the requirement that parties had to run a gubernatorial candidate in order to maintain party status, the Democrats made it clear they did not want a Green Party candidate for governor on the ballot this year, and furthermore, if there was a Green Independent candidate, they did not want that candidate to be well funded. So they also made major changes to the Clean Election Law that discouraged small parties from taking advantage of that process.

Filed Under: Blog, Maine

New Hampshire bill contradicts Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling

The Center for Competitive Politics sent a letter to New Hampshire lawmakers Tuesday warning that a campaign finance bill under consideration directly contradicts a recent Supreme Court ruling.

House Bill 1367, which has passed the state House and is under consideration in the state Senate’s Election Law and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, would require business organizations and labor unions to establish political committees before engaging in political speech.

“The Supreme Court has spoken on this issue,” said Center for Competitive Politics President Sean Parnell. “If the New Hampshire legislature passes this bill, they would be wasting taxpayer dollars in a futile effort to limit the political speech of small businesses and labor unions. In effect, they would be begging for a lawsuit.”

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly held that political committees did not provide sufficient means for organizations to speak effectively about candidates and issues.

“Even if a PAC could somehow allow a corporation to speak-and it does not-the option to form PACs does not alleviate the First Amendment problems with §441b. PACs are burdensome alternatives; they are expensive to administer and subject to extensive regulations…PACs, furthermore, must exist before they can speak. Given the onerous restrictions, a corporation may not be able to establish a PAC in time to make its views known regarding candidates and issues in a current campaign.” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote [emphasis added].

The Center for Competitive Politics is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on promoting and protecting First Amendment political rights.

Filed Under: External Relations Press Releases, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases, Tax Financed Campaigns Press Release/In the News/Blog, Tax Financed Campaigns State, Tax-Financing

Boston Globe’s wet kiss for ‘clean elections’

As a former reporter for the Des Moines Register and, I often view campaign finance stories from the lens of a former reporter. A story today in the Boston Globe about Maine’s taxpayer financing program for political candidates illustrates how biased some major media outlets can be when covering campaign finance issues.

First, the headline: “Maine blazes a trail in funding,” the Globe says. The subhead is even worse: “Clean election system popular.”

Oh, really? The system is popular? Does the Globe cite polling data from Maine residents? Perhaps a focus group of Mainers singing the system’s praises? Nope; the popularity justification stems from the fact that 80 percent of legislative candidates participate. Yes, folks, politicians will take “free” money for their campaigns—especially when anti-free speech interest groups wage a concerted campaign to tar them as “dirty” and corrupt if they do not put their campaign on the public dole. Shocking.

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

Free Speech, the Sequel

Filed Under: In the News

RNC v. FEC: free speech setback or SCOTUS opportunity?

A panel of three federal judges denied a request by the Republican National Committee to ease the restrictions on unregulated contributions to national political parties. The ruling is here.

This case turned on a procedural issue: the judges viewed themselves as bound by the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. The Court said that “in due course, the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to clarify or refine this aspect of McConnell as the Court sees fit.”

After several cases loosening political speech regulations for independent groups, both major parties will remain at a competitive disadvantage as long as they remain restricted by archaic and arbitrary contribution limits.

Under the Supreme Court’s rationale since McConnell, national party committees should be able to raise and spend money for non-federal purposes like supporting local candidates, get-out-the-vote infrastructure, redistricting and litigation.

To say that the McConnell ruling applies to party committee activities beyond elections goes too far. These activities do not cause corruption or its appearance, and these efforts are necessary to build grassroots involvement. This spending will occur. The question is whether the government will mandate how it will be spent: through independent groups or, as another option, political parties.

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

March of freedom continues in v. FEC

A federal appeals court knocked out another wall in the regulatory maze of campaign finance restrictions today.

The unanimous opinion, authored by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, held that the government may not limit unincorporated associations of citizens from banding together to spend money advocating for or against candidates. The ruling is another blow in a hail of punches against a government effort to regulate independent political speech.

In, the Court extended the rationale of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and the D.C. Circuit’s Sept. 2009 decision in EMILY’s List v. FEC. In Citizens United, the Court held that incorporated entities—business corporations, labor unions and nonprofits—pose no risk of corruption when they spend money independently to advocate for or against candidates. extends this rationale to unincorporated groups as well.

The D.C. Circuit also ruled earlier this month that an independent political party, Unity08, could raise and spend unregulated money until it designated a federal candidate. Brad Smith commented on that case in CCP’s blog.

Filed Under: Blog

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