For some time, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has stood out from other respected think tanks generally favoring free markets and limited government in that its lead scholar in the area of politics and elections, Norman Ornstein, has generally been favorable to the so-called campaign finance ‘reform’ perspective. Other leading free market think tanks, such as the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, have taken a view closer to ours here at the Center for Competitive Politics, regarding limits on a citizen’s right to spend or contribute money to the candidates or causes of their choice as a grave infringement of First Amendment rights.
So it was a pleasant surprise to read a new report from AEI challenging the key arguments of President Obama’s proposed executive order that seeks to roll back the First Amendment rights recognized in Citizens United. Written by former Department of Justice official and current law professor John Yoo and former U.S. Attorney David Marston, the piece rightfully begins by quoting Nixon staff on their ‘Enemies List.’
“This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration. Stated a bit more bluntly-how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies. . . . The project coordinator should then determine what sorts of dealings these individuals have with the Federal Government and how we can best screw them (e.g., grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc.).”
–Excerpt from memorandum dated August 16, 1971, from John Dean to Lawrence Higby
A few additional excerpts:
…Moreover, as a weapon to silence political speech, the proposed executive order is striking in its sweep and boldness. Nixon aide John Dean proposed a modest beginning, suggesting “not more than ten” targets for his first enemies list. In contrast, the draft executive order requires every one of the millions of federal contractors5-whose business totals more than half a trillion dollars per year-to disclose their political contributions and expenditures to advocacy groups.
…Anonymous political speech is as American as Publius, the nom de plume used by Alexander Hamilton, JohnJay, and James Madison for their anonymous series of newspaper articles, now known as the Federalist Papers. For American debate on political issues both before and after ratification of the Constitution, anonymous political speech was the rule, not the exception.
Yoo and Marston have put together a fantastic report here, and the entire piece is a must-read.