Saturday WSJ column features CCP research

The “Cross Country” column by Collin Levy in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal features the latest example of so-called reformers attempting to suppress and control speech — this time in post-Rod Blagojevich Illinois.

The Illinois Reform Commission, created by new Gov. Pat Quinn, recently recommended a host of campaign finance restrictions in order to clean up the state’s reputation of corrupt government. Among the suggestions: banning contributions from lobbyists, contribution limits, a pilot program for public financing of judicial elections, and — the kicker — a personal recommendation from Quinn to erase the campaign chests of candidates for the 2010 cycle (coincidentally, this “reform” would wipe out the $3.5 million in the coffers of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is expected to challenge the governor in next year’s Democratic primary. Mr. Quinn would give up just $83,512).

The WSJ features CCP’s research and recent testimony before the Commission by CCP Chairman Brad Smith to detail how campaign finance “reform” is more often about incumbents using the law to suppress criticism and damage potential challengers by unconstitutionally “leveling the playing field” rather than a meaningful effort to promote good government:

For campaign finance reformers, the problem is always “too much” money. But as Illinois shows, the problem isn’t the money, it’s the politicians. Three other states — Utah, Oregon and Virginia — have no contribution limits. Yet they haven’t a shadow of the political scandals Illinois has spawned. According to research by the Center for Competitive Politics, the three states that the Justice Department ranks as having the lowest rates of public corruption — Iowa, Oregon and Nebraska — do not have stringent campaign finance restrictions.

In 2007, the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice issued a report calling Illinois’s relatively unregulated campaign system “broken and badly in need of reform.” But it also called Minnesota, which has contribution limits and public financing, “broken and badly in need of reform.” Ditto Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. As former Federal Election Commission chairman Brad Smith points out, “broken and badly in need of reform” turns out to be the universal condition of campaign systems, which reformers never run out of new proposals to fix.

Filed Under: Blog

Reaction to President Obama’s nomination of John Sullivan as FEC Comissioner

CCP released the following statement from Chairman Bradley A. Smith on President Obama’s nomination of SEIU attorney John J. Sullivan as FEC Comissioner:

“John Sullivan’s experience as a practicing election law attorney should serve him in good stead. We anticipate that he will use his knowledge and experience to work to simplify the FEC’s complex regulations and that he will bring a sensitivity to serious First Amendment issues before the commission,” said CCP Chairman and former FEC Chairman Bradley A. Smith. “Sullivan’s litigation on behalf of the SEIU and other organizations makes us optimistic that he understands how campaign finance restrictions like McCain-Feingold threaten Americans’ political free speech rights.”

Politico reports mixed reaction from groups in the so-called “reform community.”

Filed Under: Blog

Fair Elections Now Act loses its bipartisan veneer

Such a shame. With Arlen Specter switching from Republican to Democrat, fans of S. 752, the misnamed “Fair Elections Now Act”  (i.e., a law to provide taxfunding of congressional campaigns) can no longer claim that the bill is ”bipartisan” — at least not in the Senate. Time to scrub those web pages.

Filed Under: Blog

CCP statement on John Sullivan’s FEC nomination

Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC Chairman and Capital University Law Professor, released the following statement on President Obama’s nomination of John J. Sullivan to the FEC:

“John Sullivan’s experience as a practicing election law attorney should serve him in good stead. We anticipate that he will use his knowledge and experience to work to simplify the FEC’s complex regulations and that he will bring a sensitivity to serious First Amendment issues before the commission,” said CCP Chairman and former FEC Chairman Bradley A. Smith. “Sullivan’s litigation on behalf of the SEIU and other organizations makes us optimistic that he understands how campaign finance restrictions like McCain-Feingold threaten Americans’ political free speech rights.”

Filed Under: External Relations Press Releases, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases

The Supreme Court parlor game begins


With news breaking that Justice David Souter plans to retire from the Supreme Court when its term end in June, attention has quickly turned to who President Barack Obama might nominate to fill the seat.

Of course, with both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue now being controlled by the Democrats, the next person to get chambers at One First Street isn’t going someone “in the mold of Justices Scalia and Thomas.”  But that doesn’t mean the next High Court appointee necessarily has to be hostile to the First Amendment rights of political speech and association.  After all, many would say the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is as far Left as liberal can get, and yet that organization has a long history of supporting broad First Amendment freedoms, even in the area of campaign finance.

Keeping that in mind, there are potential nominees President Obama could pick to fill the upcoming High Court vacancy who could add to what already appears to be a five justice majority that is skeptical of the constitutionality of campaign finance laws.

To learn more about the possible Supreme Court nominees and what we know about their campaign finance views, click the headline.

 

Filed Under: Blog

Cato releases new ‘Citizens United’ video

The Cato Institute has released a new video focusing on the recent Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court case.

The video features CCP board member and George Mason University law professor Allison Hayward as well as John Samples, Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Representative Government and Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Steve Simpson.

Follow this link to watch the video (it’s just under six minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeGlzEavpTM

Filed Under: Blog

Arizona Clean Elections commission again considers nullifying election results

The AP reports this morning that Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission is considering tossing a state legislator out of office, thereby nullifying the will of a majority of voters in his district. If removed, this would be the second case in which the Citizens Clean Elections Commission has removed a legislator from office.

From the article:

Campaign finance case could oust Ariz. legislator

A state legislator is accused of illegally and secretly augmenting his public campaign funding with private cash to pay an election consultant. With the consultant saying it’s true and the legislator denying it, a state official says “someone is lying.”

The outcome of the case pending before the state Citizens Clean Elections Commission will decide whether Rep. Doug Quelland, R-Phoenix, is ousted from his state House seat and face hefty fines.

As is to be expected in such cases, many of the facts are hotly disputed and even the members of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission acknowledge that this is a difficult case:

…the case is “as clear as mud,” Commissioner Jeff Fairman said at the conclusion of a three-hour meeting Thursday during which the commission was scheduled to act on the allegations.

“I agree it’s a mess,” said Commissioner Louis Hoffman. “Clearly someone is lying here.”

…commissioners said they were troubled by the conflicting testimony they and their investigators heard…

“Everything is a mess,” said Commissioner Lori Daniels, a former legislator.

Ultimately, an appointed commission will have the authority to decide whether Doug Quelland is suited to sit in the Arizona legislature. I always thought that responsibility rested with voters, but I guess under so-called clean elections programs that’s not the case.

Something to ponder for those considering the Fair Elections Now Act, which would do institute a similar taxpayer bailout of politicians.

Filed Under: Blog

Breaking News: Justice David Souter to retire at end of Supreme Court term

Associate Justice David Hackett Souter plans to retire at the end of the current Supreme Court term, according to multiple news outlets this morning, including NPR’s long-time Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg, the New York Times and the Washington Post.  With the High Court closely divided — especially on issues concerning campaign finance and the First Amendment rights to political speech and association — any change in the Supreme Court’s membership could alter the constitutional jurisprudence coming from One First Street.

Justice Souter has been generally deferential to government regulation of political speech and association concerning elections.  For instance, Justice Souter was joined four other justices to uphold most of the provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (a.k.a. McCain-Feingold) that were challenged in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.  More recently, Justice Souter has found himself in dissent when bare majorities of the Supreme Court struck down the federal Millionaire’s Amendment in Davis v. Federal Election Commission, and constitutionally protected issue advocacy from BCRA’s electioneering communications ban in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL II).

More later.

Filed Under: Blog

Broadcast Localism and the Lessons of the Fairness Doctrine

In this policy briefing, John Samples examines the legacy of the speech-stifling Fairness Doctrine to inform a recent broadcast localism initiative. Although the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has permanently removed the Fairness Doctrine from its regulatory books, localism isn’t going away. While the Fairness Doctrine required licensed broadcasters to share airwaves equally in order to preserve competing political viewpoints, the broadcast localism initiative would similarly silence speech by exposing it to regulation through content requirements and advisory boards that would oversee broadcast speech. Furthermore, as was the case under the Fairness Doctrine, under this proposed localism initiative, these regulations would be susceptible to exploitation by individuals who wished to use them to bully and silence their opponents. Accordingly, through a historical overview of this political intimidation culminating with the end of the Fairness Doctrine, Samples illustrates the dangers in pursuing a policy of localism and recommends that the FCC avoid this type of regulation.

Filed Under: Fairness Doctrine, Faulty Assumptions, Research, Fairness Doctrine