CCP files brief in Citizens United v. FEC

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) filed a friend-of-the-court brief today in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which the Supreme Court will rehear Sept. 9. CCP’s brief argues the Court should overturn Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and a related holding in McConnell v. FEC.

CCP’s brief focuses on the Supreme Court’s historic treatment of economic legislation and the role of speech in those issues. In United States v. Carolene Products Co., the Court held that laws regulating the economy would receive a lower level of scrutiny because economic liberties could be protected through “political processes, which can ordinarily be expected to bring about repeal of undesirable legislation.” By upholding corporate independent expenditure bans, Austin denies corporations the means to participate in the very “political processes” they were assured would protect them from overreaching legislation.

Austin‘s ‘anti-distortion’ rationale is deeply flawed and badly out of step with the Court’s political speech jurisprudence,” said CCP Vice President Stephen M. Hoersting, the counsel of record on the brief. “Austin‘s concern for the corrosion supposedly caused by independent speech of incorporated organizations merely decries the absence of equalized resources for speech. It has nothing to do with preventing corruption of candidates and officeholders.”

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Amicus Brief: Supplemental Brief in Support of Appellant in Citizens United v. FEC

Download Amicus Brief

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Video available for today’s FENA hearing

The archived webcast of today’s House Administration Committee hearing on the Bailout for Politicians, H.R. 1826, is available here.

The testimony of CCP Chairman Bradley A. Smith starts at 1:43:33.

Brad Smith testifies at a House Administration Committee hearing on H.R. 1826, the Fair Elections Now Act.

Photo of Bradley A. Smith courtesy of Eric Brown of the Political Activity Law blog. His Flickr stream of the hearing is here.

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TV pitchman hawks FENA on the Hill

Sam Waterston, better known as Jack McCoy of “Law & Order” and pitchman for TD Ameritrade, is on Capitol Hill today trying to sell lawmakers on a bailout for their political campaigns, Roll Call reports in its K Street Files column:

Law & Order Lobby. Actor Sam Waterston of “Law & Order” fame will be making the rounds on Capitol Hill today to lobby for the Fair Elections Now Act, a bill that would establish public financing of Congressional elections.

In addition to Waterston, the bill has the backing of a coalition of groups including Common Cause, Public Citizen and the Brennan Center for Justice. On Thursday, the House Administration Committee will consider the proposal, which would give candidates who voluntarily agreed to accept no more than $100 per contributor for each election a 4-to-1 match in federal funding.

See Center for Competitive Politics release on our analysis of FENA here. CCP Chairman Brad Smith will testify on FENA at an 11 a.m. House Administration Committee hearing (1310 Longworth House Office Building). For more details, including a full witness list, see the committee’s website here.

Waterston is also a spokes-celebrity for such innovations as Old Glory Robot Insurance, an experience that will probably come in handy as he sells the joke of a political bailout on Capitol Hill.

(click here to see the full post with Waterston’s mock infomercial for Old Glory Robot Insurance)

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Public Campaign’s bogus study

Unless I missed a memo, the nation is still debating the merits of overhauling the health care system. Individuals and groups on all sides of the issue are still free to participate in the debate as well as make political contributions. 

Never missing an opportunity to decry “corruption,” however, the folks at Public Campaign Action Fund have concluded that political contributions are the reason certain legislators vote the way they do. Their conclusion, of course, gives Public Campaign the ability to advance their agenda through media-friendly sound bites, including this from national campaign director David Donnelly: “These findings point to the need for Congress to pass the Fair Elections Now Act, which would free elected officials from the pressures of fundraising.”

Their recently released “study” looked at contributions to key congressional committees in the health care debate from the “health and insurance industry,” a category defined by the Center for Responsive Politics and at no time clarified as to exactly who that includes — again alluding to the fact that, as far as Public Campaign is concerned, there is one side to the health care debate and the entire, undefined category of the “health and insurance industry” is on the wrong side of it. As CCP has noted before, such broad hyperbole is demonstrably false, as the health insurance is factionalized with numerous, often contradictory interests. Moreover, the majority of advertising spending so far has been in favor of action on Public Citizen’s view of health care reform.

(click here to read more)

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Stupid Campaign Finance Reform Headlines

From Public Campaign, tireless advocates for restricting your speech, comes this stupid campaign finance headline:

Elected Officials Voting Against Health Reform Received 65% More in Campaign Donations From Health and Insurance Interests Than Those Voting for Reform

Next we’ll learn elected officials opposed to tax increases received more in campaign donations from people opposed to tax increases than did those voting for tax increases; that lawmakers voting for “card check” received more from unions than from business; and that officials supporting “public” financing of campaigns received more from employees of Public Campaign than they did from those opposed to tax financing of campaigns.

Shocking.

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CCP releases FENA analysis, Smith to testify at House hearing Thursday

The Center for Competitive Politics released a report today analyzing the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA), a bill that would implement taxpayer funded congressional campaigns.

“Supporters of government-subsidized campaigns claim their scheme would usher in bold ‘reform’ but can’t point to actual successes beyond platitudes,” said CCP Chairman Bradley A. Smith, who will testify Thursday at a House Administration Committee hearing on the proposal. “Congress should examine the record of these failed programs not flowery rhetoric promising reduced corruption, decreased influence of organized interests and more competitive campaigns.”

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Citizens United: The Government Presses Its Case to Regulate All Speech

Earlier this year, at Supreme Court oral argument in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the government raised eyebrows by arguing that it believed that it can constitutionally ban the publication of books (if, as is always the case, the publisher is a corporation) that contain even one line arguing for the election or defeat of a candidate for federal office.  The government based its belief on the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld a blanket ban on corporate political spending in order to prevent “distortion” of campaigns.  Faced with the full constitutional ramifications of Austin — for the government’s position flows naturally from Austin —  the Supreme Court asked the parties to reargue the case on September 9, to consider whether Austin should be overruled.

Austin was based on the assumption that the government could limit some speech in order to enhance the voices of others, although the case tried not to frame it that way. Rather, the Austin Court argued it was dealing with a “different type of corruption, the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth… .” To most people, that sounds like an egalitarian argument, not one about “corruption.”  Which would be fine — it is perfectly acceptable to favor things on egalitarian grounds — except that the First Amendment to the Constitution appears to forbid the government from making such determinations.  As the Supreme Court stated in in the landmark case Buckley v. Valeo, “the concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the First Amendment, which was designed “to secure ‘the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources,'” and “to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.”

Thus, Austin has long been the odd man out in campaign finance jurisprudence, the case that doesn’t fit the mold. And apparently the government now agrees, for rather than defend Austin, the government has apparently decided that the best defense is a good offense — in it’s brief, filed last week, it now argues that it not only can ban books published by corporations — it could ban books even if published by individuals.

For more on this startling display of presumed government power, click the headline to go below the fold.

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CCP Chairman Brad Smith to testify at Thursday FENA hearing

Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Bradley A. Smith will testify at a hearing in the House Administration Committee Thursday on the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA), better known as the Bailout for Politicians.

The hearing on H.R. 1826 will start at 11 a.m. in 1310 Longworth House Office Building.

The bill was intoduced March 31 by Representatives John Larson (D-Conn.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.). A Senate companion bill, S. 752 was introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Arlen Specter (D-Penn.). No hearings have been scheduled in the Senate. Here’s CCP’s press release on the roll out.

To read some of CCP’s past concerns with FENA, click here.

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Citizens United and gov’t file briefs

Citizens United and the U.S. Government filed supplemental briefs today in Citizens United v. FEC, which will be reargued before the Supreme Court Sept. 9.

The Center for Competitive Politics will file its amicus brief in the case July 31. Our previous brief is here.

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