A common sense campaign finance proposal

As lawmakers begin to tackle weighty issues in the lame duck session and look to the next Congress, the Center for Competitive Politics will work with lawmakers in both parties to advance pro-speech legislation that reaffirms important First Amendment principles.

In what we hope is the first of many common sense proposals, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) recently introduced the “Free Speech and Citizen Fairness Act of 2010” (H.R. 6286). This legislation would eliminate the annual aggregate cap on contributions by individuals, repeal the limit on coordinated spending by national or state political parties, and clarify that blogging and other internet activities are not treated as contributions or expenditures.

This proposal would help eliminate unnecessary confusion and address important issues, such as affirming that a personal blog does not count as a contribution to a candidate’s campaign. The Federal Election Commission has passed regulations to this effect, but Congress should codify this principle.

Additionally, removing the cap on coordinated expenditures between candidate committees and parties is a proposal that should garner widespread support. The campaign finance landscape involving coordination rules has evolved in a way that puts candidates and parties in an illogical position. It is hard to argue that there a significant interest in or reason for limiting the ability of party committees to support their own candidate.  Once McCain-Feingold banned soft money contributions to national parties, the anti-circumvention rationale that once justified the coordination limits no longer made sense and this common sense approach to streamlining campaign finance law should be applauded.

CCP has included addressing the coordination issue in our list of suggested pro-speech policy proposals. That agenda also includes restoring tax credits for small donations, adjusting the contribution and disclosure thresholds limits to properly account for inflation, permitting independent solicitation and facilitation of contributions to PACs, clarifying the coordination standard, and allowing limited corporate and union contributions.

We look forward to working with other nonprofits, stakeholders and Members of Congress to discuss how to update campaign finance laws as the 2012 campaigns approach.