“Another such victory will undo me, … .” Reformers and the Majority PAC decision

On Thursday the FEC took a cautious approach to both its own precedent and judicial precedent, and turned down an Advisory Opinion Request by Majority PAC and House Majority PAC (AOR 2011-12) to have federal officeholders solicit unlimited funds for these independent expenditure PACs, sometimes called, most unhelpfully, “SuperPACs.” It’s a short term win for the so-called reform community, but a longer term measure of the progress made for free speech in the last 6 years, and a likely indictaor of future progress to come.

Filed Under: Blog

Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC gag getting a lot less funny for campaign finance ‘reformers’

Today promises to bring more attention to a meeting of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) than quite possibly all previous meetings combined. The cause of this is comedian Stephen Colbert’s appearance today to answer questions regarding his advisory opinion request.

Originally intended as an ongoing comedy skit to mock the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, the Colbert SuperPAC gag has spun into something of a headache for the self-styled campaign finance ‘reform’ community. Several media outlets have begun to report on this. From today’s Politico comes this story by Ken Vogel:

Stephen Colbert’s running PAC shtick creates sticky mess

Advocates of reducing the power of money in politics thought they had found a champion in the unlikely person of Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, whose ongoing shtick about forming a political action committee brought more attention to their cause than all their press releases, testimony and legal briefs combined.

As part of his effort to highlight – and parody – the impact of a 2010 Supreme Court decision opening new avenues for corporate money in elections, the satirist plans to testify Thursday in front of the Federal Election Commission about a very real legal request he filed that would allow his planned Colbert Super PAC to push the envelope on corporate political spending.

But the joke seems to be backfiring.

Filed Under: Blog, Money in Politics, Maine

Advisory Opinion on Colbert Super PAC

Stephen Colbert’s request for an advisory opinion was ruled on today by the FEC.  CCP President Sean Parnell had this comment on the ruling:

“The travails of Stephen Colbert and his Colbert Super-PAC serve to illustrate just how far we have strayed from the First Amendment when a comedian needs to ask the government for permission or at least clarification of the law in order to air on his show or elsewhere ads mocking campaign finance regulation.  Mr. Colbert’s experience demonstrates just how complex, convoluted, and ultimately stifling of political speech our campaign finance system is.”

Filed Under: External Relations Press Releases, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases

Sean Parnell on The Big Picture

CCP President Sean Parnell went on the Thom Hartman’s show to discuss campaign finance:

Filed Under: Blog

Arizona Free Enterprise and free speech markets.

The Supreme Court’s latest 5-4 wrangling, Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett is a fine case of two jurists talking completely past each other.  Both opinions affirmatively cite Citizens United, Davis, and New York Times v. Sullivan.  Both opinions agree on the general framework of the First Amendment (“more speech good, less speech bad”).  And both opinions are utterly incoherent when paired against each other.

Filed Under: Blog

Did Justice Kagan throw campaign finance contribution limits and disclosure under the bus?

Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent in Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AKA McComish) yesterday is being praised by the so-called campaign finance ‘reform’ community today. The New York Times, for example, writes:

Justice Elena Kagan, writing in dissent, dissects the court’s willful misunderstanding of the result. Rather than a restriction on speech, she says, the trigger mechanism is a subsidy with the opposite effect: “It subsidizes and produces more political speech.” Those challenging the law, she wrote, demanded – and have now won – the right to “quash others’ speech” so they could have “the field to themselves.” She explained that the matching funds program – unlike a lump sum grant to candidates – sensibly adjusted the amount disbursed so that it was neither too little money to attract candidates nor too large a drain on public coffers.

There are a lot of things wrong with Justice Kagan’s dissent, but that’s the subject of a later post. For now, I just want to focus on one of the more interesting things she wrote, which might give ‘reformers’ pause before celebrating this dissent any further.

Filed Under: Blog

Law Degree Not Required

In the Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett dissent, the Justice Kagan writes:

“Indeed, what petitioners demand is essentially a right to quash others’ speech through the prohibition of a (universally available) subsidy program.  Petitioners are able to  convey their ideas without public financing-and they would prefer the field to  themselves, so that they can speak free  from response.   To attain that goal, they ask  this Court to prevent Arizona from funding electoral speech-even though  that assistance is offered to every  state candidate, on the same (entirely unobjectionable) basis.  And this Court gladly obliges. If an ordinary citizen, without the hindrance of a  law  degree, thought this result an upending of First Amendment values, he would be correct.”

As an ordinary citizen without the hindrance of a law degree, allow me to explain the problem with her justification in plain English:

Filed Under: Blog

Where to Now on Public Financing?

Filed Under: In the News

Public Financing Curtailed by High Court in Arizona Case

Filed Under: In the News

Opposing view: Reject tax-financed campaigns

Filed Under: In the News