More biased polling on Citizens United

This week, congressional Democrats have been touting a polling memo from Obama campaign pollster Joel Benenson that allegedly shows strong public support for the DISCLOSE Act, the current hysterical effort by the self-styled campaign finance “reformer” and their Capitol Hill allies to undo the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Ironically, the memo claiming broad public support for DISCLOSE has until now been, well, undisclosed. But Shopfloor.org, a web site run and maintained by the National Association of Manufacturers, has managed to track down a copy of this secret memo.

The memo is, needless to say, a mind-boggling collection of misstatements and biased questions—and not very fresh ones, either. Anyone who relies on this memo to inform them as to what the American public believes today about the DISCLOSE Act is going to be badly led astray.

To begin, the memo asserts that “80% of voters oppose the ruling,” a curious result given that CCP’s own poll on Citizens United in March found that nearly 60 percent of likely voters were not even aware of the case. If anything, voters are even less aware of the case today—another poll earlier this month by the liberal People for the American Way that also asked extremely biased questions found that 73 percent of voters “have not heard anything” about the Citizens United decision.

Filed Under: Blog

Majority declines to DISCLOSE hearing

A clipboard-toting majority staffer for the House Rules Committee prohibited the public from attending today’s hearing on H.R. 5175, known as the “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections” Act, or DISCLOSE. Apparently, the Democrats decided their version of democracy wasn’t strong enough to allow regular folks to attend their rubber-stamp hearing for the bill.

Laura Renz, the Director of Research & Government Relations for the Center for Competitive Politics, arrived at the Capitol for the hearing well before it’s announced start time. Around 3 p.m., a staffer told Renz and other non-staffers that the committee would only allow key staff and a few members of the media to attend. Several people, including Renz, were turned away from the hearing, even though they arrived before many staffers.

In fairness, the Rules Committee hearing room is notoriously cramped, but the irony of ejecting nonprofit advocates and other interested citizens from a hearing on a “transparency” bill is thick. It’s a good metaphor for the DISCLOSE Act: Congress protects itself; considerations for citizens are an afterthought at best.

Don’t hold your breath for a transcript or video of the hearing, at which House Administration Committee Chairman Robert Brady was slated to present a Manager’s Amendment rewriting the bill, either. The Rules Committee is the poster committee for closed, clubby government.

Chairwoman Loiuse Slaughter’s staff sent the hearing notice to Capitol Hill office less than two hours before the hearing, ensuring that only congressional staff and professional advocates would be able to attend a supposedly public hearing.

Yet, after the Rules Committee clamp-down this afternoon, the hearing can hardly be considered “public.” Openness in government? Slaughtered.

Filed Under: Blog

DISCLOSE would silence dissent, not promote transparency

The Center for Competitive Politics sent a letter to House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter today addressing an effort by Members of Congress and allies in the self-styled reform community to falsely market the “DISCLOSE Act,” as “just disclosure.”

“As the Rules Committee prepares to advance this speech-chilling bill to the House floor, its supporters are cynically misrepresenting the bill as simply providing transparency and avoiding all mentions of the many outright prohibitions on political speech it would impose on Americans,” said Center for Competitive Politics President Sean Parnell.

A staff member for Congressman Chris Van Hollen was quoted in the The Hill recently as saying “Let’s be clear, the Disclose Act does nothing to limit free speech.” Another article from The Hill quoted a spokesperson for Congressman Mike Castle, one of only two Republican co-sponsors of H.R. 5175, as saying “It’s just disclosure, for God’s sake…”

“Despite the sloganeering by supporters of this bill to gut the First Amendment, the DISCLOSE Act would silence businesses with competitive government contracts, U.S. companies that attract minimal foreign investment and advocacy nonprofits seeking to speak to Americans about issues,” Parnell said.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure Federal, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, External Relations Press Releases, External Relations Sub-Pages, Federal, Federal Press Releases and Blogs, Press Releases

Van Hollen’s office falsely claims DISCLOSE Act ‘does nothing to limit free speech’

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running ads in newspapers opposing the DISCLOSE Act, the speech-stifling bill that the so-called campaign finance reform community has latched onto as the antidote for Citizens United, which freed business corporations, unions, and nonprofit groups to speak out in elections. The bill’s primary sponsor in the House, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, is not amused.

The Hill reports that Van Hollen staffer Doug Thornell called out the Chamber today, demanding “The Chamber should step forward and disclose who funded this piece. What do they have to hide?”

One answer would probably be “No more than the NRA or the Sierra Club have to hide,” but I’ve been told that such comments aren’t really appreciated by the campaign finance “reform” community these days. No sense of humor or irony, apparently.

Apparently not much in the way of reading comprehension or commitment to accuracy either, judging by Thornell’s other comments.

“Let’s be clear, the Disclose Act does nothing to limit free speech,” [Thornell] said…

Mr. Thornell seems to be unfamiliar with the actual legislation being considered, which contains two explicit and absolute bans on the free speech of for-profit corporations if they receive government contracts above a specified threshold or have foreign ownership totaling as little as 20 percent.

Filed Under: Blog

Don’t bogart my petitions, man

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide the petition privacy case Doe v. Reed as soon as Thursday. Many organizations on the left were upset that a conservative group seeking to thwart gay marriage rights in Washington state would seek to cloak their members in a shield of anonymity reminiscent of the authors of the Federalist Papers.

Some of the same liberal blogs, though, reacted with horror when an interdepartmental goon squad killed the buzz of pot activists in Washington by bogarting their petitions, howling about invasion of privacy.

Last month, a federally-funded, multi-jurisdictional task force called WestNet raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Tacoma, Wash. looking for evidence of the illegal sale of marijuana. While the raid turned up 70 marijuana plants (15 is the legal limit in Washington per medical marijuana patient), WestNet seized 200 signed petitions supporting Initiative 1068 (I-1068) which would legalize the sale, use, and possession of marijuana by persons 18 and older. The federal agents photocopied the petitions, keeping the names and addresses of Washington residents who favor legalization.

The episode has brought charges by the left that WestNet violated the petition signers’ First Amendment rights by seizing the petitions. Phillip Dawdy, spokesman for I-1068, said he understands police procedures about seizing potential evidence, but he worries that such a confiscation might have a “chilling effect” on future signature-gathering. The progressive news site Fire Dog Lake (FDL) started its own petition to have the seized petitions returned and FDL contributor Michael Whitney wrote that the federal agents engaged in a “clear act of intimidation designed to scare potential supporters of legalization from signing on to petitions.”

Filed Under: Blog, Washington

Insiders racket

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Filed Under: In the News

GOP sponsor may withdraw support for campaign finance bill

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Filed Under: In the News

Law against false statements in campaign ads is troublesome

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Filed Under: In the News

‘Stand By Your Ad’ and Independent Expenditures, in 1996

It’s the first day of summer. An ideal time to be reading documents from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Here’s an excerpt from the draft Department of Justice letter to Senator Trent Lott, assessing the constitutional issues presented by the reform bill of the day, S. 1219 (the Senate Campaign Finance Reform Act of 1996). Section 302 of that bill would have required that independent expenditures contain the permanent street address of the funder, and that candidate advertisements contain an audio self-identification bit—basically a Stand By Your Ad requirement.

This is what the Clinton DOJ said in their draft response, found at p. 4 of this PDF:

By requiring those making independent expenditures to publicize their permanent street address and forcing candidates literally to speak or to make an appearance, each of these requirements places a burden on speech at the core of the First Amendment’s protection. If these requirements place a substantial burden on protected speech and do not materially advance a governmental interest, the provision would fail to pass constitutional scrutiny.

I guess this should come as no surprise. After all, it was President Clinton who appointed Brad Smith to the Federal Election Commission…

UPDATE: The Clinton administration also considered the law’s rescue fund provision unconstitutional. The provision would have raised the contribution limit if a publicly funded candidate was outspent by his opponent. On page 7 of the PDF, the DOJ wrote that the bill “would effectuate a speaker-based distinction that is based on the communicative impact of speech and that forces a candidate to choose between not speaking in excess of the voluntary limits or triggering a higher contribution limit for his or her opponent.”

Filed Under: Blog

Another privileged speaker unaffected by DISCLOSE Act

Imagine if the DISCLOSE Act had passed several months ago, and were now in place. Now imagine if the following ad—let’s say it were, hypothetically, Democracy 21 paying for the ad—had begun running today in Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s Maryland district, where he has a Sept. 14 primary:

“Announcer: Chris Van Hollen is leading an effort to pass reform legislation that is effective. He’s being challenged by interest groups in Washington, D.C. who do not want to disclose their donors while they make campaign-related expenditures.

Congressman Van Hollen is challenging this an anti-reform position, and now he’s being attacked for being too much of a reformer.

Call Congressman Van Hollen and tell him to continue to oppose the anti-reformers ‘Alice in Wonderland’ view of Washington DC.”

Now, imagine that instead of running an ad, the head of Democracy 21 were instead to simply get on the phone with a reporter from Roll Call writing an article about last week’s collapse of the DISCLOSE Act, and provide pretty much the same commentary to appear in a news story:

Wertheimer defended Van Hollen’s performance. “He is leading an effort to pass reform legislation that is effective, and he’s being challenged by interest groups in town who, bottom line, do not want to disclose their donors while they make campaign-related expenditures. That’s a non-viable position from a policy perspective,” Wertheimer said. “That is an anti-reform position, and if Rep. Van Hollen is challenging that and being attacked for being too much of a reformer, then it tells me we’re living in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in this city.”

Not much difference between the hypothetical ad and the quote in the news story, is there? Just two that seem important…

Filed Under: Blog, Maryland