Why The FEC Lacks a Quorum

Well, the campaign finance story of the week has been the squabble over whether or not Senator John McCain can opt out of the tax financing system in the primaries.  I have voiced a very qualified yes.  But there are some thorny issues, so we can hardly blame Democracy 21, aka Fred Wertheimer, if they aka he can’t quite make up their aka his mind[s].  However, there is one thing that Mr. Wertheimer Democracy 21 always knows, as if by instinct – if there is a campaign finance problem, it is Mitch McConnell’s fault.  But as usual, when Wertheim Democracy 21 talks, the wise reporter is skeptical.

Go below the fold for the full story.

Filed Under: Blog

A New Way for the New Left

A schism among the left has been revealed, buried in the controversy over how so-called "reform" organizations should handle the appearance of campaign finance malfeasance by Senator John McCain.

At the heart of the split is the embrace of money and speech in politics by the new left to remove the "improper influence of money from politics" by "empower[ing] the public with open systems and tools for making changes at the ballot box."

Meanwhile, the old guard remains hopelessly lost by insisting on ever tightening regulation, which really serves as a "vaunted electoral protection program" that "rejects politics."

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Amicus Brief: Davis v. FEC

Amicus brief of the Center for Competitive Politics

Filed Under: Completed Amicus Briefs, Legal, Legal Center, amicus brief, Davis, Amicus Briefs, Completed Cases (Amicus), Amicus Briefs, Completed Cases (Amicus)

In memoriam

The conservative movement lost its lion today.  William F. Buckley Jr. best known as a dogged defender of free markets and as a scourge against communism passed away today at the age of 82.

Buckley never shied from controversy and, for better and for worse, he always took a stand. So, while we will leave to others more erudite than us to comment on Buckley’s legacy, we are called to comment on what we know best.

William F. Buckley Jr., brother to Buckley v. Valeo lead petitioner Senator James L. Buckley, recognized the perils of overreaching campaign finance regulation.

More after the jump.  

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The Audacity of Faith

In June of last year, Senator Barack Obama spoke to nearly 10,000 fellow believers at a Hartford, Connecticut gathering of the United Church of Christ.  For most of an hour, Obama referenced both his faith and his politics, explaining how the former guides the latter.  Many would view Obama’s speech as the most recent incarnation of a proud tradition.  From John F. Kennedy’s eloquent defense of his Catholic faith in a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to President Reagan’s robust denunciation of the "Evil Empire" at a meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals, presidential candidates have often chosen religious fora as places where they can both open up about the intimate details of their personal lives and further explain the moral underpinnings of their policies.  There is no doubt, the American people, secular and religious alike, are better off having this type of insight into the minds of those they would elevate to the highest office in the land.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees on this last point.  On Monday, the Internal Revenue Service opened an investigation into whether or not the UCC engaged in prohibited politicking when it invited Obama to speak.  If the IRS eventually determines that Obama’s address crossed the hazy line separating the spiritual and the political, the church could be forced to forfeit its tax exempt status.

 More after the jump. 

Filed Under: Blog

Whose Ethics Need Reform?

A common tactic of politicians running for federal office, even used by current officeholders, is to run "against Washington."  As part of this tactic, politicians often adopt an "us vs. them" rhetoric with "us" being the people and "them" being so-called Washington special interests.

Registered lobbyists are naturally targeted as leaders of the Washington establishment that prevent the people’s true will from getting done.  Candidates looking to present evidence of their work on behalf of the people are now citing the passage of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 as proof.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Of House Loans and Campaign Loans

There seems to be a great deal of debate made over whether or not McCain pledged his public funding as collateral for the loans he received while his campaign was struggling to survive. Far better minds (and legally trained, too) than my own are pondering this question, and I’m not sure I have much to add. However, as I’m in the process of selling my house right now and potentially buying another, there are a few things that have occurred to me as I’ve been dealing with my own contract and lending issues.

Mainly, I wonder if the problem for McCain isn’t that he may have pledged taxpayer funding as collateral, but instead that he listed them as an asset in order to obtain the loan and then intentionally eliminated the value of that asset by withdrawing (or at least, attempting to do so) from the government funding scheme.

More after the jump.

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What a Tangled Web We Weave: Everything You Need to Know About John McCain and Matching Funds

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

-Sir Walter Scott  

[Update 2/25: This post has been updated to reflect a further exchange of views with Professor Scarberry, who is quoted below.  At the time Prof. Scarberry first offered his opinion, he was not aware of the language of Sen. McCain's revised December loan agreement.  In the end, he hasn't changed his opinion, but this points up part of the problem faced not just by we commentators, but by the FEC - are there other facts that we don't know?

Additionally, today the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint against the McCain campaign, alleging that it is in violation of the law.]

The wonderful irony of government involvement in funding political campaigns – that is, giving your tax dollars to candidates and parties to use for convention balloon drops, negative TV ads, and campaign robocalls – is that it actually increases the perception of corruption in politics and distracts from discussion of political issues.  Rarely has this phenomenon been so clearly illustrated as in the current flap over whether or not Senator McCain is committed to using tax dollars – with accompanying spending limitations – prior to his formal nomination at the GOP Convention in September.  

Can the Federal Election Commission force Senator McCain to take tax funds and limit his spending?  If so, what does it mean for his campaign?  Has his campaign broken the law?   Why can’t the FEC rule on Senator McCain’s predicament?  And is Senator Obama behaving ethically?   

If you’ve followed a few of the stories, they all seem quite confusing.  But we’re going to sort things out for you.  So here you have it: all you need to know about Senator McCain and federal matching funds – and then some.   Click the headline to go below the fold.

Filed Under: Blog

Perhaps an update to “I’m Just a Bill” is in order…

A segment during Thursday night’s Special Report with Brit Hume in which the New York Time’s now infamous article on John McCain’s lobbyist connections engendered the thought that perhaps it is time to update the elementary school classic "I’m Just a Bill."

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

CCP Academic Advisor on CNN and Bloomberg TV

Allison Hayward, an Academic Advisor to the Center for Competitive Politics will be on CNN’s The Situation Room today, likely during the 4:00 o’clock hour.  Professor Hayward will also be on Bloomberg Television’s Money & Politics tonight, airing at 7:00 pm and again at 9:00 pm.

Filed Under: Blog