Dickerson, Backer, Barr: Triumvirate of Free-Speech Advocacy

CPAC 2103 started today, Thursday, March 14, at the Gaylord National Hotel at the National Waterfront in Prince George’s County, Md. CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson was a member of one of the first panels of the day, appropriately titled “What’s Up with Campaign Finance,”  along with attorneys Dan Backer of DB Capitol Strategies and Benjamin Barr. The three represent some of the most prolific advocates for free political speech working in DC today, with all three having either current or past involvement in working legislatively to stem the tide of campaign finance “reform” efforts. Dickerson and the rest of the CCP legal team are, in fact, expecting word tomorrow on whether or not the Supreme Court will hear their challenge to aggregate limits in James v. FECBacker is currently the attorney in another aggregate limit challenge, McCutcheon v. FEC. Barr is working on addressing burdensome reporting requirements in Freespeech v. FEC.

The panel this morning was an overview of some of the major issues free-speech advocates face in the current environment, from discussion of contribution limits, aggregate or otherwise, to the regulatory end-run pushing disclosure via agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that, as Dickerson noted, really have little understanding of the constitutional parameters of election law.

Other topics discussed include the relatively new decision by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to allow text message donations — which some argue may actually hinder military voters serving overseas from contributing — to the growing competition between political parties, candidates, and political action committees (PACs) for donations. Takeaway question to watch with no easy answer: Should the FEC be disbanded as Backer argues, or does Dickerson have a better idea, that the FEC should simply begin to act more like an agency with specific enumerated powers?

More to come as the conference continues.