Archives for April 2010

Citizens United on the DISCLOSE Act

Citizens United President David Bossie’s statement on the DISCLOSE Act:

“This bill, like many that have come before it, is a incumbent-protection power grab dressed up in the sheep’s clothing of ‘reform.’ The bureaucratic jungle that this bill would create will force groups of modest means like Citizens United to spend thousands of dollars of donor money on a battery of attorneys and accountants. This is precisely what the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC sought to avoid. The overly complicated regulatory scheme that Schumer and Van Hollen have proposed will chill free speech. Many grassroots organizations will not be able to afford the necessary legal advice and will be shut out of the debate entirely. As we have seen over the last twelve months, citizens across the country are coming together to oppose the out-of-control spending and rampant deficits that the Democrat-controlled Congress and White House have overseen. These are the people who the Democrats are scared of, and it is no coincidence that these are the people they aim to silence by this bill.

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

DISCLOSE Act to emerge from the shadows

According to media reports, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Chuck Schumer will finally unveil their bill of campaign finance restrictions today. Stick with the Center for Competitive Politics’ blog for comprehensive analysis of the bill throughout the day.

Politico reports that Van Hollen has persuaded one more Republican, Rep. Walter Jones, to sponsor the DISCLOSE Act, which would subvert the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: “The goal is partly to discourage the types of previously prohibited spending legalized when the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled in favor of the conservative non-profit group Citizens United, which had argued that its free speech rights were impinged by decades of law restricting political spending by corporations, unions and other organizations.”

The addition of Jones is no surprise as he—along with previously announced Republican co-sponsor Rep. Mike Castle—is one of just three Republicans co-sponsoring a bill to provide congressional candidates with taxpayer financing for their campaigns. Castle and Jones are the only two Republicans so far supporting the bill—21 Republicans still serving in Congress voted for McCain-Feingold in 2002.

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

DISCLOSE Act: Democratic leaders push self-serving campaign finance law

Lawmakers are introducing a bill today designed to subvert the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and intimidate dissenting groups into silence as midterm elections approach.

“The First Amendment says ‘Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech,’ not ‘Congress should protect some speech, but feel free to hyper-regulate the political speech of businesses and nonprofits,'” said Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC Chairman.

Twenty-one Republicans voted for McCain-Feingold and still serve in Congress. The fact that Democrats were only able to persuade two Republicans to join their gimmicky bill indicates that the DISCLOSE Act would serve the interests of incumbents, especially the Democratic majority—not the public interest,” Smith said.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the immediate past chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, spent three months crafting the bill behind closed doors after rejecting significant Republican input.

The legislation would ban many companies from airing political ads, give candidates a windfall subsidy in ad time to respond to independent ads, regulate long-protected issue advocacy with more restrictive coordination rules and force nonprofits and trade groups to disclose their donors-even if donors don’t intend their funds to be used for influencing elections.

Citizens United vindicated robust political speech no matter the speaker,” said CCP Vice President Stephen M. Hoersting. “The First Amendment does not need a fix from self-serving politicians seeking a monopoly on political speech.”

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure Federal, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, External Relations Press Releases, External Relations Sub-Pages, Federal, Federal Press Releases and Blogs, Press Releases

Unions getting taxpayer dollars exempt from Schumer-Van Hollen “contractor” ban?

Rick Hasen, law professor at Loyola University and proprietor of Election Law Blog, had an interesting comment in The Hill newspaper today relating to the pending (for quite some time) DISCLOSE bill, as Senator Schumer and Congressman Van Hollen’s effort to undermine Citizens United is now cleverly known as.

Hasen was addressing the legislation’s ban on government contractors engaging in independent expenditures. The ban only covers for-profit corporations it seems (or so we’ve been told – the legislation has been crafted behind those closed doors that I thought so-called campaign finance “reformers” were so appalled by), exempting non-profits and unions.

Attempting to explain this, Hasen said the following:

Hasen said some of the biggest campaign spending restrictions outlined in the summary would only affect corporations. For example, large federal contractors, recipients of government bailout funds who have not repaid the money and foreign-owned companies would be banned from election spending.

“There are no foreign-owned unions and unions are not government contractors,” Hasen said. “The biggest limitations in this bill apply only to corporations because there are no parallels in the labor world.”

Well, I don’t know too much about “foreign owned unions,” although I’d note that some foreign involvement would seem to be suggested by the names of the Service Employees International Union,  the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and others. The IBEW even has a Canadian on what appears to serve the function of a board of directors (International Executive Council members).

But there certainly is a parallel between for-profit government contractors and unions, at least in terms of receiving government funds.

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

National Journal post: A Partisan Power Grab

DISCLOSE (which stands for “Democracy is Served by Casting Light on Spending in Elections”—you know a bill is bad news when it needs a gimmicky title) is not bipartisan in any meaningful sense: there are 218 Republicans in Congress, and only Rep. Castle has signed on. The bill’s lead sponsors, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen and immediate past Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Chuck Schumer, drafted the bill behind closed doors, rejected Republican requests for input, and now seek to move the bill without committee hearings.

Why the secrecy, and now the rush? Representative Van Hollen and Senator Schumer, along with other Democrats, have made no secret of their concern that corporations will disproportionately support Republicans, so DISCLOSE is an effort to shut them down not through the blanket prohibition struck down in Citizens United, but through excessive regulation. It’s easy to see why Republicans—including 20 of the 21 Republicans in Congress who voted for McCain-Feingold—haven’t signed on.

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

DISCLOSE will chill speech

Filed Under: In the News

Progressives divided on DISCLOSE

It’s DISCLOSE week in Congress: time for Democrats to finally release the campaign finance legislation they’ve been writing behind closed doors for nearly three months.

The contours of the legislation have taken shape, but the details of campaign finance legislation are important. So far, the chief sponsors, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, have kept the public in the dark.

Politico published a piece this weekend with an updated summary of the legislation. Politico‘s summary is notable because it differs from the public summary leaked last week from Van Hollen’s office.

Perhaps most notable, the new framework now contains a seventh plank on coordination that differs from the original framework released in February and the framework released last week. This version contains a loosening of coordination rules between parties and candidates. CCP has advocated for more lax coordination regulations after Citizens United as a way to allow candidates to more effectively respond to business, union and nonprofit advocacy without restricting First Amendment rights.

Several prominent Democrats have advocated loosening the coordination regulations for candidates and parties. DNC general counsel Marc Elias, who is advising congressional Democrats on the DISCLOSE Act, used his testimony at FEC hearings on coordination last month to advocate for this change. Elias argued that McCain-Feingold never intended to regulate coordination by political parties. Another influential Democrat, former FEC Chairman Robert Lenhard, testified at a February hearing of the House Administration Committee that Congress should abolish the restriction:

“Congress could take one relatively easy step to restore some balance to the system: it could repeal the limits on how much national political parties can spend in coordination with their candidates,” he wrote.

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

Democrats move to stem corporate political cash

Filed Under: In the News

Schumer, Van Hollen Walking A Tightrope

Filed Under: In the News

Unions wait to see Citizens United ‘fix’

Filed Under: In the News

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