CCP memo on U.S. Chamber, Crossroads GPS allegations

The Center for Competitive Politics has released a comprehensive memo analyzing two recent charges that GOP-leaning independent groups are violating campaign finance laws.

ThinkProgress, a unit of the Center for American Progress, posted a blog item alleging that the Chamber used foreign funds in its political activity. Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service alleging that Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) organization has abused its tax status.

Both allegations are baseless, according to our analysis:

Despite cherry-picked statements by CLC/D21 alleging a nefarious conspiracy by Crossroads GPS officials to violate tax law, there’s no solid evidence to that effect. As Ben Smith noted in Politico, “the letter is aimed at suggesting to donors and groups that they might not be in the clear.”

American Chambers of Commerce Abroad (AmChams) have existed since 1896, when the first one was formed in France. The India affiliate, cited by ThinkProgress, was formed in 1992. The groups, according to their bylaws, are not allowed to accept any financial aid from foreign governments, and their minimal contributions to the U.S. Chamber are simply not used for political activity. This is not a new issue, and there’s absolutely no evidence that the Chamber is doing anything improper this election cycle.

Filed Under: Blog

Memo on campaign finance allegations against Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber

As Election Day approaches, incumbent politicians and campaign finance interest groups are ratcheting up a concerted campaign to deter donors from contributing to politically-active nonprofits.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that Congress could not prohibit businesses, labor unions and advocacy groups from advocating for or against federal candidates, Democratic congressional leaders and the self-styled reform community have sought to subvert the decision.

Their supposed remedy, the DISCLOSE Act, passed the House but twice failed to muster enough votes to pass the Senate. The DISCLOSE Act would have required all groups airing “express advocacy” and “electioneering communications” ads to disclose their donors over a certain threshold and include an on-air disclaimer by the leader as well as another message from the top donor (if applicable). The bill would have banned many businesses (government contractors and companies with as little as 20 percent international investment) from airing political ads but no unions would have been similarly restricted.

Failing to pass outright speech bans targeting business groups and an onerous disclosure regime, politicians and pro-regulation groups are trying different tactics: calls for an Internal Revenue Service investigation of a prominent GOP-leaning group, flimsy allegations of foreign influence by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a public pressure campaign led by a New York official to sway companies into silence.

Filed Under: Press Releases

A campaign finance ‘reform’ twofer from Think Progress

Think Progress, the left-leaning blog affiliated with the Center for American Progress (a supporter of so-called campaign finance “reform”) today has a post up that they no doubt believe is a devastating assault on the political spending of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

The largest attack campaign against Democrats this fall is being waged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trade association organized as a 501(c)(6) that can raise and spend unlimited funds without ever disclosing any of its donors… A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding. And while the Chamber will likely assert it has internal controls, foreign money is fungible, permitting the Chamber to run its unprecedented attack campaign. According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections.

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

Campaign finance regulations stifle ‘political entrepreneurs’

The Institute for Justice recently published new research by University of Missouri Prof. Jeffrey Milyo on the harmful effect of burdensome campaign finance regulation in the states. Milyo’s research focuses on the issue of “political entrepreneurship” and why citizen engagement is essential to a democracy. He lays out a persuasive argument that onerous regulation serves no valuable governmental purpose and significantly hinders the ability of citizens to participate in the political process in the most basic ways.

Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs analyzes how contribution limits to—and regulation of—political action committees act primarily to keep regular citizens from speaking out on important issues. Milyo notes that “these regulations are so burdensome, it is apparent that they are intended to deter political entrepreneurship” because they hamper the ability for groups to grow and communicate effectively.

Filed Under: Blog

Reformers left asking “Wha happened?” over demise of DISCLOSE

Back in nineteen seventy mrrphph, I was in a TV show called “Wha’ Happened?”, and whenever anything went wrong, I would turn to the camera and say, “Wha’ happened?” We had all kinds of catchphrases, like, uh, “I’ve got a weal wed wagon!”, and, “I can’t do my wuurrrk!”, and I think I was the first guy to say, “I don’t think so!” But it was cancelled after a year, which is actually good, because that’s how you build a cult…

            “Mike Lafontaine” in A Mighty Wind

In the week since the DISCLOSE Act met its second and perhaps final fatal blow in the U.S. Senate, the so-called campaign finance “reform” community has been perplexed and outraged by the failure of their latest grand proposal to regulate political speech in America. For some reason I have the image of Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 and Craig Holman of Public Citizen sitting at their desks, a dazed and angry look on their face, asking themselves over and over again “Wha happened?”

Well, the cult of “reform” hasn’t been cancelled yet (although it too can trace its modern lineage to nineteen seventy mrrphph with the founding of Common Cause and passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act and its 1974 amendments), but there seems little doubt that much of their agenda has been.

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