Is the FEC designed to fail?

A relatively common talking point among the “reform community” is the idea that the Federal Election Commission is not merely a “failure,” but “designed to fail.” Really? When you think about it, the whole “designed to fail” language is silly. Who designs something “to fail”? 

When people say the FEC is “designed to fail,” what they really seem to mean is that it is not designed to accomplish every thing that person would like to see accomplished at a pace that person would like. Presumably, people who agree with the speaker’s goals did not “design the system to fail” (though it is possible that the system was poorly designed, but that is hardly the same thing). It is more likely that the system was designed to accommodate various interests and concerns….

Rather than being “designed to fail,” perhaps the FEC is designed to succeed—and those who use contrary terminology simply do not understand or have not adequately considered the full range of issues involved. That the FEC still cannot succeed in regulating political speech in a non-partisan manner that is consistent with the First Amendment and free, competitive politics may be the problem not of design, but of mission.

Filed Under: Blog

So, you want to pass campaign finance reform

CCP’s Allison Hayward imagines a conversation between former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama about how to use campaign finance legislation to bolster re-election chances:

Filed Under: Blog

New York’s Public Advocate agrees: Donors do not get favors from spending on elections

For years, advocates of campaign finance regulation have argued that such regulation is necessary to prevent campaign spenders from buying favorable public policy to help their bottom lines. Now comes New York City’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, to join CCP in arguing, albeit apparently by accident, that that is not true. 

Filed Under: Blog

Couldn’t have said it better myself

“The FEC’s budget for 2010 was $66.5 million.  What exactly is the American public getting for that money?” said [CREW Director Melanie] Sloan.  “The incoming Republican majority has promised to zealously attack wasteful government spending in the 112th Congress.  The FEC in its current form would be a wonderful place to start.”

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. 

Filed Under: Blog

RNC asks SCOTUS to hear coordination case

Lawyers for the Republican National Committee filed a petition this week seeking review of an appellate court decision on coordination restrictions affecting parties and candidates.

The petition in the case, Cao v. Federal Election Commission, was filed Dec. 8. In September, an en banc panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiffs, Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-La.), the Republican Party of Louisiana and the RNC. Cao and the RNC are represented by super-campaign finance litigator James Bopp, Jr. of Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom. Bopp is also an RNC vice-chairman.

Filed Under: Blog, Maine

Conn. parties seek SCOTUS review of tax financing ruling

Connecticut’s Green and Libertarian parties filed a petition today with the Supreme Court to seek review of an appellate court’s decision involving Connecticut’s tax financing law.

Connecticut’s minor parties want the Supreme Court to take up the case to determine whether state campaign finance law discriminates against minor party candidates by imposing stringent qualifying requirements coupled with a trigger provision that punishes third party candidates who qualify by then giving additional government subsidies to their major party opponents.

Filed Under: Blog, Connecticut, Maine

Time for a new campaign finance reform agenda

While pundits continue to sort out the real meaning of last month’s elections, some facts seem crystal clear: we held elections, tens of millions of citizens voted for (or against) candidates as they saw fit, and, in almost all cases (barring death, resignation, etc.), the candidates they chose will spend at least a couple of years in public service until the next election.

This obvious statement seems necessary given all of the hysteria and hyperbole in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which said that corporations, unions, advocacy groups, and other associations have a First Amendment right to speak on behalf of their members, shareholders, and donors.

Combined with another important case called SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down limits on what citizens can give to independent groups that want to speak about politics, the self-styled campaign finance reform community predicted “death for democracy” and similarly alarmist pronouncements of doom for our political system.

Instead, voters were exposed to vast quantities of political speech from a wide variety of perspectives and interests, speech with which they could agree or disagree—and speech they could affirm or discard.

Despite the fact that America’s political system survived and thrived in 2010, predictable calls to return to the old way of regulating political speech persist. Advocates for the antiquated system of speech regulation rely on a worldview where only politicians, the media, and a few favored interests should have a meaningful say in politics and campaigns.

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

This Year in Campaign Financing

Filed Under: In the News

CCP releases post-2010 policy agenda

Blockbuster court decisions reshaped campaign finance law this year, and the Watergate-era regulatory structure has struggled to keep up with the modern realities of political activity. As a result, the rights of independent groups have been restored while parties and candidates face a competitive disadvantage.

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) released an agenda today, “After 2010: A Modern Agenda for Campaign Finance Reform,” which outlines steps policymakers can take to increase incentives for citizen participation in politics, encourage electoral competition and simplify the maze of campaign finance regulations.

“After the failure of the DISCLOSE Act, which inflamed partisan tensions, this reform agenda offers a way forward for the next Congress to overhaul campaign finance law while respecting First Amendment rights,” said Bradley A. Smith, the chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics and a former FEC chairman.

This session, Congress properly rejected the DISCLOSE Act, which would have restricted the political speech of business groups while inventing new, onerous disclosure and disclaimer regulations. The Federal Election Commission is in the process of implementing a rulemaking to change campaign finance regulations following the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

“Congress should consider reforms to ensure that parties remain relevant,” said Allison Hayward, CCP’s vice president of policy. “Enhancing the ability of candidates to effectively communicate their message to voters in a post-2010 world will improve our election process and help to sustain the competitive balance vital to our democratic republic.”

“We hope these proposals, gleaned from a range of bipartisan suggestions, serve as a starting point for a renewed debate over campaign finance laws in Congress and at the Federal Election Commission,” Hayward said.

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

FCC’s Copps calls for authority to regulate campaign finance

In a Dec. 2 speech at the Columbia Journalism School, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps suggested that the agency had authority to regulate campaign finance disclosure for independent political groups.

Copps, once a staffer for former Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) is one of three Democrats on the five-person panel. He referred to independent political spending as “carpet-bombing” and an “undemocratic sin.” No other commissioner appears to have called for such expansive FCC authority over political regulation. The Federal Election Commission, of course, already has jurisdiction to enforce campaign finance laws.

Filed Under: Blog