In the News
Forbes: When It Comes To Political Donations, There Is Such A Thing As Too Much Disclosure
By Zac MorganIn 1905, Theodore Roosevelt used the bully pulpit of his annual message to Congress on the State of the Union to advocate for “the full and verified publication in detail of all the sums contributed to and expended by the candidates or committees of any political parties.” The result, the President declared could not “but be wholesome” for the body politic.Nearly 110 years later, approximately 95 percent of campaign spending is fully and transparently accounted for—certainly the most publicity that donors have ever received in the history of the Republic. Organizations intimately involved in politics, such as national parties, PACs, and candidate committees are forced to meticulously track and disclose their contributors and spending habits. These disclosure arrangements have been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court in every major case since 1976.But it’s possible that the Court signaled a slight shift on the issue last Term. While reading the entrails of a Supreme Court opinion for guidance is always perilous—and intestines are almost always dicta—Chief Justice John Roberts’s controlling opinion suggests that the Court may be less sympathetic to the latest trend in political disclosure laws.In McCutcheon, while noting that disclosure can serve as a check against nefarious behavior by bad actors seeking to evade contribution limits, the Chief Justice pointedly mentioned that “[w]ith modern technology, disclosure now offers a particularly effective means of arming the voting public with information.” Unlike in the past, where “information about campaign contributions was filed at FEC offices and was therefore virtually inaccessible to the average member of the public,” today, “massive quantities of information can be accessed at the click of a mouse.”
By Dan WaySpeech regulators “want names of individual donors, which will chill free speech to the point if donors don’t stop donating, they’ll be harassed into not donating,” said Matthew Nese, head of legislative and policy outreach at the Center for Competitive Politics.“There’s very much a war going on,” Nese said. When speech regulators talk about transparency, they mean enabling government to monitor the political speech of citizens, rather than encouraging citizens to serve as watchdogs of government.
By Cyril TuohyHowever, Allen Dickerson, legal director for the Center for Competitive Politics, said the rule and its proposed amendments are riddled with “vagueness and over-breadth,” and present “serious constitutional concerns.”“The right to support candidates in this way, regardless of occupation, is a central liberty secured by the First Amendment,” Dickerson wrote in a comment letter to the MSRB.Dickerson cited the landmark Supreme Court rulings in Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission(FEC), and McCutcheon v. FEC that will “provide a strong signal that such restrictions will be carefully scrutinized” by the courts, he wrote.
By Luke WachobThe decline in participation is attributed to both ideology and circumstance. House Republican Leader Ken Fredette explains that many Republicans feel it’s wrong to accept taxpayer dollars to pay for their campaigns, saying, “[i]t’s the philosophy that government shouldn’t provide money to me to run for office. I should raise that money myself, if I want to be a candidate.”We agree that candidates should raise their own campaign money. This is a key distinction between differing views on how to solve the larger problem of incumbency advantage in elections. Some argue that to bolster new candidates and challengers we should provide taxpayer dollars to candidates, while others (like CCP) think we should simply allow candidates to raise larger or unlimited private contributions.One of the problems with the tax-financing approach is that these programs can beexploited by corrupt or unserious candidates. Convincing donors to contribute is an important aspect of campaigning and a way to demonstrate a candidate’s viability in the election. Additionally, a donor who chooses to contribute a significant amount to a candidate is likely to first make sure the candidate is organized and has a feasible plan for a successful campaign. If not, they alone bear the cost of their poor judgment. A government program in which only a small number of requirements must be met for a candidate to receive funding is considerably easier to game, and everyone’s money is on the line.
Featuring George Will.
By SEAN HIGGINSFederal labor law might be overhauled for the first time in 70 years if Republicans win control of the Senate in November, with key lawmakers planning to reintroduce legislation that would effectively cripple the ability of unions to raise political funds.The mechanism would be a simple tweak: Republicans would rewrite the National Labor Relations Act to prohibit unions from using an individual member’s dues for political activity unless that member explicitly grants permission to the union.GOP lawmakers proposed the measure in a bill dubbed the Employee Rights Act, which was introduced during the current Congress last November. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., one of its main co-sponsors, would be in line to be the next chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee under a GOP majority.
By John McCormickThe airwaves are so packed that Woods decided to add another hour-long newscast to his lineup — not because there’s a ton of news in Des Moines, but because he knew he could sell the time. At rates that can easily top $1,000 a minute, it’s a gold rush that ends abruptly Nov. 4.“We’re just being forced to take their money,” said Nancy Johnson, general sales manager for KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Alaska. “The economics of broadcast TV stations aren’t what they were a decade ago, so it helps to have an influx of capital.”Having a competitive race in the local market helps. But the other, newer driver of campaign advertising is the emergence of super PACs, which often have to pay the highest rate because they come in at the last minute with an ad buy, and because stations know they can afford to pay. By contrast, federal law mandates that individual campaigns get the cheapest rate possible.
By Stuart TaylorMILWAUKEE (Legal Newsline) – The whistleblower who has accused Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm of privately expressing “hyperpartisan” political and personal bias against Gov. Scott Walker is now considering a libel suit against Wisconsin’s largest circulation newspaper.The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel falsely accused him of making a “death threat” against Chisholm – a crime – Michael Lutz told this reporter in an interview Thursday night.It also failed to print his denial and used a fragment of what he told columnist Daniel Bice to make it appear as if he were confirming something that he was in fact denying, he said.
By Tom LoftusIn my analysis last week of political contributions to Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, I found that 69 billionaires on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans have made donations supporting McConnell, and 14 billionaires on the Forbes list have donated to Grimes.
By Justin SinkVice President Biden is headed to the West Coast on Tuesday for a series of campaign events intended to bolster congressional Democrats ahead of next month’s midterm elections.Biden will look to raise money in Hollywood for Rep. Bruce Braley (D), who is locked in a tough battle in Iowa against Republican Joni Ernst to replace Sen. Tom Harkin (D).
By Andrew ProkopWhen Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) lost his reelection in 2004, he went to go work for the law firm of Alston & Bird, and later to the even bigger firm DLA Piper. But though these firms do extensive lobbying and government advocacy work, Daschle has never registered as a lobbyist.That’s because the Lobbying Disclosure Act requires registration only under particular circumstances. “You have to spend 20 percent of your time on behalf of one client in the quarter in which you’re reporting,” LaPira says. But such a narrow definition could leave out many people who do lobbying or advocacy work. “How often do you spend an entire day working on a single project every week, for an entire quarter?” LaPira asks. “That’s just not the modern professional world.”LaPira believed there were many more examples than just Daschle. During his research, he would often look up a particular registered lobbyist, and notice that he or she would be working with others doing similar things — except those others weren’t registered. It made him wonder, just how many unregistered lobbyists are out there?