In the News
“Election laws are supposed to clean up politics,” said Klein. “But this case proves that malicious, partisan prosecutors can use these laws as the dirtiest political tool.”WyLiberty’s briefs—joined by the Center for Competitive Politics—addressed the implications of the DeLay prosecution on free speech, showing that Texas law allowed for each transaction and that the prosecution’s interpretation would violate the First Amendment’s protections against vagueness and overbreadth.“This case demonstrates the real dangers of criminalizing politics” said Barr. “Americans should not have to worry about government investigating and imprisoning them just because they exercised their constitutional rights. Fortunately, the Court realized that the First Amendment precludes just this sort of abuse.”
By Sean HackbarthThere’s a cottage industry of advocacy groups demanding greater transparency of businesses’ advocacy spending. One tool they use is the “CPA-Zicklin Index,” produced by the Center for Political Accountability and the Zicklin Center, which claims to measure public companies’ political disclosure policies.In the Wall Street Journal, David Primo, an associate professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester and an adviser to the Center for Competitive Politics, pulls back the curtain and reveals the real intent of the index and the groups behind it. It’s not about making advocacy spending more transparent. Instead, it’s about driving the business community out [subscription required] of public policy debates to advance an ideological agenda…
CCP President David Keating said, “We congratulate the Court for bringing this politically motivated criminal prosecution to an end and upholding the rule of law. Vague election laws combined with criminal penalties are a recipe for abusive political prosecutions. They are a threat both to the First Amendment and to honest government.”Benjamin Barr, a Washington DC area lawyer specializing in First Amendment matters, had this reaction to the ruling: “Tom DeLay’s experience is a stark reminder about the dangers of criminalizing politics. For over a decade, Mr. DeLay fought for his innocence against these charges. Thankfully, the Court recognized that the First Amendment stands as a barrier against this sort of abuse.”
By A. Barton HinkleThere’s just one thing missing from all the outrage over the Citizens United ruling: the facts.The question before the court in that case was whether the government had the power, as laid out in the McCain-Feingold law, to prohibit the distribution of a movie about Hillary Clinton in the 30 days before a federal primary election because it was, ostensibly, an “electioneering communication”
—one that advocated for or against electing a political candidate, or that amounted to the functional equivalent of same—that had been produced by a (nonprofit) corporation.That raised another quite obvious question: If the government could forbid distribution of a movie, then could it also forbid distribution of a book? The government’s lawyer gave the only logically consistent answer possible: yes. The Supreme Court wisely said: No, the government cannot ban books—nor can it ban movies, or TV ads, or billboards, or other forms of independent communication. No matter who produces them, and no matter when.This offends progressives because, as Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said recently, it “gives corporate special interests the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections.” Franken was one of the sponsors of the Senate amendment, which lost by a narrow vote. Also standing behind the measure was The New York Times, which—like the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, and good liberals everywhere—has fulminated against Citizens United. During one of the nation’s periodic censorship epidemics, you might say.
By Andrew AckermanBeryl Howell, a trial judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, late Tuesday dismissed a challenge to contribution limits set by the SEC in 2010. The case was brought by the state Republican parties of New York and Tennessee.Judge Howell said only a U.S. appeals court has authority to hear the case.Jason Torchinsky, an attorney for the state parties, said his clients are unlikely to drop their legal challenge. He said he still is reviewing the ruling but planned to respond to it “soon,” declining to elaborate.
By Jamie FullerThe New Republic’s Alec MacGillis is out with a new e-book about Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose 2014 reelection campaign is a list of dismaying superlatives. It will likely be the most expensive Senate race in history, it has featured some of the silliest ads and stupidest controversies, and it features one of the most unpopular-yet-routinely-
successful incumbents in the country.“The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell” concedes that McConnell is a very good politician, despite having very little charisma and looking a lot like the elites he ceaselessly derides. MacGillis argues that becoming a very good politician, in the McConnell sense, requires avoiding all aspects of politics that don’t involve campaigning, until you are so electorally aerodynamic that sliding into victory becomes easy and everything else — legislating, compromising — becomes impossible.
By Al Kamen and Spencer HsuA federal judge Tuesday ordered former senator Larry “Wide Stance” Craig (R-Idaho) to pay the U.S. Treasury $242,000 for improperly using campaign funds to pay for his legal defense after a 2007 sex-sting arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom.Craig incurred the legal costs after seeking to withdraw his guilty plea to one count of disorderly conduct at the airport during a layover from a return flight to Washington from his home.
By Yoni BashanNew York state Assemblyman William Scarborough was charged in state and federal courts Wednesday with embezzling more than $80,000 by defrauding the state’s travel-voucher system and stealing money from his own campaign account.Mr. Scarborough, a Democrat, withdrew or transferred $40,000 from his campaign account between 2007 and 2014, Attorney General Eric Schneidermansaid. Two charges of the 23 state charges were for grand larceny and the rest were for filing with a false instrument.Mr. Scarborough was also indicted on 11 federal charges of theft and wire fraud for allegedly submitting 174 falsely prepared travel vouchers. Prosecutors said he claimed $40,000 in allowances and reimbursements that he wasn’t entitled to receive.
By Andrew MetcalfHere’s how it will work: Candidate must file a notice of intent to use the public fund before collecting qualifying contributions. Candidates must hit a minimum threshold to begin receiving matching contributions: $40,000 for a county executive candidate, $20,000 for an at-large council candidate, and $10,000 for a district councilmember. The threshold is meant to ensure that only viable candidates, who show an ability to raise funds from many individuals, can begin to receive public funds.Once candidates hit the minimum threshold, they can begin receiving matching contributions from the public fund. And this is where it can get complicated: County executive candidates can receive $6 for each dollar of the first $50 of a qualifying contribution, then $4 for each dollar of the second $50 and $2 for each remaining dollar of the maximum contribution. This means a $50 contribution from a local resident to a publicly funded county executive campaign would be worth $300, while a $150 donation would be worth $600.For council candidates, the matching funds are a little smaller: $4 for each dollar of the first $50, $3 for each dollar of the second $50 and $2 for each remaining dollar.
The Democratic governor said politicians should be subject to campaign finance rules, but the general activities addressed in the bills already are subject to regulation and disclosure.The political ethics bills originated in the state Senate, where lawmakers have been under a cloud after federal agents arrested two Democrats in unrelated corruption cases. Agents say supporters lavished gifts and dinners on Sens. Leland Yee of San Francisco and Ron Calderon of Montebello to curry favor.