Reforming spies

Supporters of campaign finance disclosure laws—I am loathe to admit—have neglected one powerful argument in favor of disclosure.

Disclosure catches spies.

Oh, wait. The donor was identified as a spy, arrested, and then the story came out that she gave a whopping $50 to a legislative candidate. So now the legislator is tarnished by the association, unwittingly, with the spy. And how does this make the world a better place? Just asking.

Filed Under: Blog

Supreme Court Maintains Soft Money Ban

Filed Under: In the News

Limiting speech: Hodes, Shea-Porter say aye

 

Filed Under: In the News

SCOTUS declines to hear RNC v. FEC

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order today affirming an appellate court’s ruling in Republican National Committee v. Federal Election Committee, deciding not to hear a case challenging contribution limits for political parties when applied to non-federal efforts.

“While the court’s ruling is disappointing, it is not out of line with the court’s precedent,” said Bradley A. Smith, the chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics and a former FEC Chairman. “The ban on soft money is a self-imposed problem Congress mandated for political parties.”

“It makes no sense for Congress to continue hamstringing political parties while independent groups, corporations and unions may spend unlimited amounts of money on political advocacy,” Smith said. “Instead of trying to subvert Citizens United by re-imposing limits on independent political speech, Congress should raise or lift the arbitrarily low limits restricting political parties, especially for activities not connected to federal elections.”

In the two-sentence order, the Court noted that Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas “would note probable jurisdiction and set the case for oral argument.” This case was an as-applied challenge to the contribution limits for non-federal activities. If a new case is filed directly challenging provision of McCain-Feingold banning soft money for parties, virtually the only remaining plank of McCain-Feingold that hasn’t been ruled unconstitutional, we hope Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito may reconsider this question.

“As the 2010 midterms approach, progressive-leaning interests such as the AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org and EMILY’s List as well as conservative-leaning interests such as the newly-formed American Crossroads, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association—and countless others—have more flexibility to advocate for the election or the defeat candidates than political parties,” said CCP President Sean Parnell. “Retaining the soft-money ban for parties makes little sense in a new era of robust independent political speech.”

At a February Senate Rules Committee hearing on the aftermath of Citizens United, CCP Vice President Steve Hoersting pressed Congress to reconsider its position: “If it is really your position that accepting support from your allies corrupts you, well, you are a co-equal branch of government, and the Court will take you at your word,” he said. “What the Court will no longer take, however, now and for the foreseeable future, is any variation of the argument that outside groups can be silenced because they may speak more effectively than some Senators may prefer.”

Filed Under: Press Releases

Kagan v. Kagan: Senators must press Kagan to explain views on First Amendment political rights

As Solicitor General Elena Kagan prepares to answer questions today at her Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing, the Center for Competitive Politics has released a policy analysis of her campaign finance background showing an apparent contradiction between her past and present views.

The analysis, “Kagan v. Kagan: Campaign Finance, Congress and the Court,” authored by Center for Competitive Politics Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward, examines Kagan’s advocacy as Solicitor General in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, her policy work as an aide in the Clinton administration and her First Amendment writings as a law professor.

In Kagan’s 1996 article, Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine, she “explicitly recognized that ‘campaign finance laws… easily can serve as incumbent-protection devices’ and when applied to certain speakers ‘the danger of illicit motive becomes even greater,'” Hayward wrote in the policy analysis.

“It is impossible to square Kagan’s analysis in this article with her recent comments that the Supreme Court should have deferred to Congress in Citizens United,” Hayward said. “Americans deserve to know which version of Kagan’s views will receive a lifetime platform on the bench of the Supreme Court.”

This question takes on added importance as the Senate considers the “DISCLOSE Act,” a bill seeking to effectively reverse Citizens United that the House passed 219-to-206 last week. DISCLOSE would carve out disclosure exemptions for labor unions and the most powerful special interest groups while prohibiting the political speech of certain companies.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) said this week he wants to know whether Kagan “would give deference to congressional findings of fact, such as those that underlie the long-standing ban on corporate money in campaigns.” In May, Kagan reportedly told Sens. Specter and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) that the Court in Citizens United didn’t show “sufficient deference to Congress.”

Remarkably, the House struck the “findings” of the DISCLOSE Act (after intense criticism that, unlike McCain-Feingold, the findings contained political rhetoric rather than a factual record). No one expects Kagan to answer specific questions on how she might rule on a potential challenge to the DISCLOSE Act. However, it’s essential to allowing the Senate to provide “advise and consent” that Kagan answer basic questions about her judicial philosophy, such as whether the First Amendment provides for broad deference to Congress in crafting political speech regulations.

“Documents from the Clinton administration archives show that Elena Kagan helped craft campaign finance laws with partisan politics in mind,” said Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Bradley A. Smith. “Senators must press Kagan on whether she now thinks congressional incumbents should be trusted with restricting political speech or if the First Amendment trumps this self-dealing.”

Filed Under: Press Releases, Maine

The DISCLOSE Act, Deliberation, and the First Amendment

In this policy briefing, John Samples discusses the potential impact of the DISCLOSE Act. The United States Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that Congress may not prohibit spending on political speech by corporations. President Obama and several members of Congress have sharply criticized Citizens United, and Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen […]

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research

Wikileaks and disclosure

Steven Aftergood, of Secrecy News fame, is a tireless, persistent advocate for disclosure in governance. But in this post about Wikileaks, he argues that disclosure isn’t always and everywhere a good thing. He observes that Wikileaks takes material from other sites. It publishes non-public material from private associations, like religious rituals and tax records. Sometimes, they do this without any good reason—just because they can, without regard for the burden this places on the individuals involved.

Disclosure as a burden on privacy and private affiliations? It’s not just those of us at CCP who are worried, it seems. But check out the vitrol spewing from most of the comments  (worse than the Senate Judiciary Committee!) Few of whom can separate transparency in government from privacy, or envision a fact about themselves they’d prefer not published on Wikileaks, it seems.

Filed Under: Blog

What do the seven opinions in Doe tell us?

When the Court released its opinion in Doe v. Reed yesterday, the predictable acclaim was heard from folks ecstatic about using disclosure as a tool of political regulation. Is that ecstasy warranted? No, not from their point-of-view, anyway.

The Court numbers but nine Justices, and Doe includes seven separate opinions. Already you have probably guessed that something is afoot. What are the issues confounding our fair Court?

Filed Under: Blog, Washington

Riddle me this: Why are New Mexico politicians trying to chill Iceman’s speech?

The First Amendment is supposed to prevent the government from being able to punish citizens simply for engaging in speech that the government does not approve. Apparently, word of this 200-plus year provision in our Constitution has yet to reach the northern parts of New Mexico.

The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported the tale of longtime New Mexico resident and actor Val Kilmer and his efforts to get a permit allowing him to convert his ranch into a bed and breakfast…

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, DISCLOSE, Disclose Act, New Mexico

Chamber of Commerce web video targets ‘DISCLOSE Act’

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce premiered a new web video on the DISCLOSE Act, the unconstitional campaign finance bill that the House narrowly passed Thursday. Check it out:

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, DISCLOSE, Disclose Act