In the News
By Marisa Herman
A key component of the proposed For the People Act – the controversial H.R. 1 bill – funnels millions of taxpayer dollars into the campaign coffers of some of the most polarizing politicians on either side of the aisle, forcing Americans to financially foot campaign bills “whether they want to or not,” opponents warn.
Promoted by Democrats as a way to weaken the influence of Political Action Committees and wealthy corporations in the federal election process, the massive 800-page H.R.-1 bill includes a provision to create a public financing system that provides a 6-to-1 taxpayer-funded match for campaign donations valued at $200 or less…
A report released by the Congressional Budget Office estimates the new proceeds would amount to about $3.2 billion over 10 years.
According to a recent analysis of campaign finance reports, the Institute for Free Speech found that some of the most vocal House members – such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. – would have already earned the maximum taxpayer subsidy proposed by the bill.
“New FEC reports reveal that H.R. 1’s matching funds program would function as a subsidy for Congress’ most powerful, famous, and notorious members,” IFS president David Keating said. “If H.R. 1 becomes law, candidates who dominate the media will dominate fundraising. Americans will be forced to pay billions of dollars to support them, whether they want to or not.”
By Alex Baiocco
Last year, the Institute for Free Speech pointed to several trends likely to impact Americans’ political speech rights. On the whole, the most significant threats were prevented by broad coalitions of advocacy groups working to defend First Amendment freedoms. Unfortunately, efforts to restrict speech, press, assembly, and petition rights will not subside in 2021 – especially with a new occupant in the White House and new majorities in Congress with a disturbing lack of respect for the First Amendment. However, 2021 has already brought new opportunities to defend and strengthen First Amendment protections.
By Mark Walsh
Next week, the high court will hear arguments in a case that is a next-generation variation of [the 1958 Supreme Court decision NAACP v. Alabama]. The case, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Rodriquez, is about the state of California’s requirement that nonprofit organizations submit a list of their top donors each year. It represents a battle between state oversight of charitable organizations and the First Amendment’s right of freedom of association.
To California, the case is about its oversight of more than 100,000 charities that operate in the state and a simple requirement that they file—confidentially—the same federal tax form listing their largest donors that they provide to the Internal Revenue Service each year on Schedule B of their Form 990s…
The challengers contend the state has a poor track record of keeping the Schedule B information confidential. It was only in 2016, after Americans for Prosperity Foundation had sued, that the state codified a regulation to keep donor information confidential, the foundation says.
The foundation says that discovery during its litigation revealed that the Registry of Charitable Trusts maintained by the California Attorney General’s Office had posted nearly 2,000 Schedule Bs for public viewing. The group also says that a website vulnerability made some 350,000 confidential documents available to anyone who knew to tweak a URL.
Philanthropy Roundtable: Four Arguments California Gets Wrong about Donor Privacy in AFPF v. Rodriquez
By Patrice Onwuka
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing argument on the critical nonprofit donor disclosure case AFPF v. Rodriquez (formerly AFPF v. Becerra) April 26…
Disclosure advocates may claim to seek increased transparency in the nonprofit world. Instead, they are stripping donors of their right to privacy and creating an environment that will drive donors away from supporting the causes they believe in.
Here are four arguments California gets WRONG about donor privacy in this case:
Disclosure is necessary for the state to investigate…
The state will keep confidential donor information private…
Public disclosure has no impact on giving to organizations…
Donor privacy is not a constitutional right…
Project Syndicate: The Dark-Money Tipping Point
By Sheldon Whitehouse and Hank Johnson
As the chairs of the Senate and House subcommittees on courts, we have closely observed the alarming encroachment of dark money on the judiciary…
Having helped to install sympathetic jurists on the federal bench, a web of financially interconnected legal groups then takes turns setting up cases to land in the Supreme Court, where they file coordinated amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in support of the outcome they are pitching. Resembling a strategically conducted orchestra, the amicus effort is the closing movement of a massive court-capture operation.
The key to this operation is dark money: donations that cannot be traced to a donor…
It’s an unfortunate fact that this dark-money campaign is working…But the real payoff could come in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Rodriquez, where the Court may decide that a right-wing donor elite has a constitutional right to secrecy when it uses front groups to influence politics and courts.
Anchorage Daily News: National voting bill would turn political debates into personal conflict
By Mead Treadwell
If you want to turn private life into political warfare, there’s a bill in the Senate just for you. It’s the Democrats’ 800-page election takeover, S. 1.
Promoted as a voting and campaign reform measure, 300 pages of the bill actually contain new restrictions on your First Amendment rights to association and free speech. These provisions have been criticized by everyone from the ACLU to Mitch McConnell, but Democratic leaders refuse to budge. The bill has already passed the House of Representatives…
A second challenge in the law is its effort to stifle political debate and undermine individual privacy, both things Alaskans hold dear. Under S. 1, any group that mentions a candidate in communications about legislation or public affairs could be forced to publicly expose its supporters. This will discourage Americans from joining groups that speak about the issues. It would also violate the privacy of longstanding nonprofit organizations that care about public policy and good government.
Americans have a First Amendment right to privately support charities and civic groups, including through membership. Doing so should not “brand” someone as fully supporting everything that group does or advocates. A garden or gun club, an aviators group, or a snowmachine group might have views on parklands or air traffic control or access to public lands. Why should they have to release their membership to make their feelings known on a legislative issues?
By Sarah Ferris, Laura Barrón-López, and Nicholas Wu
Democrats have spent months touting an expansive proposal that would reshape U.S. elections. But with the bill’s Senate prospects growing more dire, key members of the Congressional Black Caucus are pushing to narrow their strategy.
The massive election reform measure known as H.R. 1 passed the House last month, but it has yet to win unified support from the 50-member Senate Democratic caucus amid a fierce GOP pushback effort that casts it as an aggressive consolidation of political power. With that Senate logjam in mind, a group of Black Democrats is pressing to elevate a more targeted voting rights bill — named for and championed by the late Rep. John Lewis — that they believe could be a more successful sell on Capitol Hill.
Center for Responsive Politics: FEC explores measures to expose ‘scam PACs’
By Karl Evers-Hillstrom
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is exploring ways to tackle so-called “scam PACs,” committees that route donors’ cash to their own operatives while spending relatively little on actual political activity…
During the commission’s open meeting Thursday, FEC staffers laid out their plan to combat scam PACs, which includes an outreach campaign to educate donors on how to navigate the FEC website. Under the proposal, committee profiles on the FEC website would have a new category showing “direct candidate support,” which consists of contributions to candidates, independent expenditures and coordinated party spending.
Commissioners showed support for the plan but didn’t approve it Thursday. FEC Chair Shana Broussard indicated the commission needed more information about the time and cost required to implement the proposed changes. Other commissioners said the new data features needed to be examined…
Commissioner Trey Trainor said the new data categories need to control for differences among PACs, including their location and the type of political activity they engage in, so that legitimate groups aren’t accused of being scam PACs.
“I’d rather have several scam PACs go free than for us to hurt the legitimate interests of somebody who is actually working to do real First Amendment political speech, and I think we all probably believe that,” Trainor said.
By Rick Maese
Raising a fist or taking a knee at the Tokyo Games this summer will come with consequences. After an 11-month review process, Olympic officials decided Wednesday to uphold a rule that bars athletes from staging protests from the medals podium or the field of play.
Maine Democratic legislative leaders are backing a bill to end corporate campaign contributions.
The bill is sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, Assistant House Majority Leader Rachel Talbot-Ross, and State Senator Louie Luchini from Ellsworth.
Jackson says the amount of corporate money injected into the political system since the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United in 2010 is too much for Maine people to compete with. He adds the bill won’t help solve all the problems brought on by the Citizens United decision, but it will help ensure corporations can’t tip the scales through campaign contributions.
”For far too long, large corporations have been able to buy state governments, and regular people just don’t have the money to buy them back,” Jackson said. “Maine has routinely led the nation on ethical reforms, campaign finance reform, and I believe this is the natural next step in the evolution.”
Today’s virtual press conference can be seen on Senator Troy Jackson’s Facebook page.
Politico: New York Playbook PM
By David Giambusso and Terry Golway
Shaun Donovan was approved for $1.5 million in public matching funds today. The disbursement comes a week after the Campaign Finance Board withheld the money while investigating potential coordination between the former Obama Cabinet member’s mayoral campaign and a political action committee funded by $2 million from his father. Campaign finance rules prohibit coordination between PACs and campaigns, and in this case a complaint had been filed that prompted the CFB to withhold Donovan’s public money last week. The grievance was dismissed Thursday, allowing Donovan to get his matching funds while New Start NYC continues to flood the election with outside money from Donovan’s father. While disclosure requirements will show who is behind outside spending, the rise of these types of groups — there is also a pro-Ray McGuire PAC and at least three PACs supporting Yang — is part of a trend of monied interests operating under federal rules and doing an end-run around campaign finance reforms in New York City. “In this election cycle, several single-candidate super PACs have been established, particularly in connection with the race for mayor, and a significant level of contributions and expenditures is occurring to and by these PACs,” CFB Chair Frederick Schaffer said. “This development poses a particular challenge to the goals of the city’s system of public campaign financing.” Schaffer said that the board will consider amending its rules regarding coordination to potentially rein in the activity of these groups after this year’s elections.
By Perry Vandell
Arizona activists have renewed their focus and condemnation on a bill that would harshen penalties for various crimes committed during an unlawful assembly following the three guilty verdicts against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
House Bill 2309, which passed the House on a party-line vote of 31-27 with two non-votes, would create a new crime called “violent or disorderly assembly” and upgrade several misdemeanors including obstructing a road, pointing a laser at an officer, and criminal damage between $250 and $1,000 into felonies when committed during such an assembly…
“While it will affect everyone, HB 2309 specifically targets Black organizers, activists and their protests as we fight for Black lives,” Bruce Franks Jr. said during a Wednesday press conference at the state Capitol. “It gives police and prosecutors, who have already proven that they will weaponize the legal system against their critics, more power to politically prosecute us.”
The Coast News: Carlsbad sets new campaign contribution limits
By Steve Puterski
New campaign contribution limits were approved by the City Council during its April 6 meeting, setting lower limits for individual contributions.
Councilwoman Cori Schumacher was able to pass her proposal of $900 for council member races and $3,100 for mayor, city treasurer and clerk. Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel, though, said the numbers should be even lower as a way to encourage individuals to run for office without having to ask for large sums of money during fundraising. Both Schumacher and Bhat-Patel said it will provide more transparency to the process.
However, Mayor Matt Hall said putting lower restrictions on donations will only encourage more money to be funneled through political action committees (PAC) and super PACs, which do not have the same reporting requirements as candidates and encourage more “dark money,” which is untraceable…
Hall said lower limits will also entice more funneled through independent expenditures, which do not require disclosing the source of the money. Hall said putting lower limits won’t limit expenditures, noting groups, such as labor unions, will do it through their own independent expenditures.
“In campaigns, people are going to contribute whatever they feel reasonable in order to elect their elected official,” he said. “When you have no limits, you will have a more honest election than when you have the most restrictive of campaigns. As long as I’ve been in politics, I’ve always put a $5,000 limit on mine. You can see all the business entities and developer entities.”