By Joe TrotterThe Federal Election Commission and its commissioners have made quite few headlines recently, the latest stemming from FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel’s statement suggesting that the agency look at broadening its authority to regulate election-related Internet videos.Ravel’s statement stems from a split vote over internet-only pro-coal videos released by a group that was critical of Democrats in the 2012 campaign season. The group did not put disclaimers in the video or report the cost to the FEC, saying they were exempt because the videos were only played on YouTube and were not broadcast.
Federal Election Commission Chairman Lee Goodman discusses the recent vote over expanding the FEC’s authority to regulate election-related Internet videos…
By M.D. Kittle“It’s incredibly rare for such a high-ranking federal official to make herself available to the public,” the announcement declared. “This is a huge opportunity to put direct pressure on the FEC to fix our broken system.”There are many people who believe the “broken system” was fixed, in 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the landmark Citizens United v. FECcase. The decision opened the door for corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on issue advocacy. Trimming restrictions on such fundamental speech, although ballooning the amount of money spent on politics, is a reaffirmation of the First Amendment, they assert.
By Noah RothmanRevel’s attorney insisted that the FEC vice chair worked with her hosts to determine the best date to travel to these states which just happen to be hotly contested electoral battlegrounds, and that it was mere providence that the best timing for her visit coincided with peak campaign season.Outgoing FEC Chairman Lee Goodman fears that the vice chairman, who is expected to ascend to the commission chairmanship next year, is “ringing a bell” to signal her support for more restrictions on political speech.“My view is that the internet has over the last 20 years dramatically democratized publishing and political speech,” Goodman told HotAir. “Individual citizens publish their ideas on a level playing field with large well-funded publishers and media organizations. We need to encourage that kind of populist political engagement and speech, not being deterring it by regulating it, investigating it, and, in some cases, possibly even censoring it.”
By Dylan ScottPolitical scientists from two of the nation’s most highly respected universities, usually impartial observers of political firestorms, now find themselves at the center of an electoral drama with tens of thousands of dollars and the election of two state supreme court justices at stake.Their research experiment, which involved sending official-looking flyers to 100,000 Montana voters just weeks before Election Day, is now the subject of an official state inquiry that could lead to substantial fines against them or their schools. Their peers in the field have ripped their social science experiment as a “misjudgment” or — stronger still — “malpractice.”What went so wrong?
By Dylan MatthewsThey estimate that if, in the 2000 and 2004 elections, every newspaper had endorsed George W. Bush, Democrats’ vote share among newspaper readers (about three-quarters of voters, they estimate) would have been 2.6 to 3.1 percent lower. That’s not a whole lot, and the change they’re modeling (literally every newspaper backing Bush) is beyond improbable, but in an election as close as 2000, even a tiny effect could have mattered.The researchers also found that the results were bigger when endorsements were surprising, given newspapers’ usual slants. In 2004, they estimate, the Chicago Sun Times’ endorsement of John Kerry and the Denver Post’s endorsement of Bush encouraged 3 percent of each newspaper’s readers to switch, whereas barely anyone was swayed by the New York Times’ endorsement of Kerry.
By Bob BauerWhich of these is chosen will be influenced by which aspect of campaign finance is thought to be really pressing: how much money is spent (volume); how it is spent (influence), and how much is publicly known about it (transparency). Of course, in any critique of campaign finance, from the left or right, there is a little bit of everything thrown in, but one of these three considerations is usually emphasized over the others.In the last week, for example, Timothy Egan writes about the volume of spending, and he blames Citizens United. The harm to which he points is the “corrosive and dispiriting effect” all of this spending on American faith in self-governance. A lack of transparency is part of the problem—money escaping into the “shadows”—and he is also troubled by the source, the few and wealthy, and their influence. But there is the sheer quantity of it: “spending by outside groups has gone to $1 billion in 2012 from $52 million in 2000.” The electorate is disgusted. Egan’s article headline is titled “The Disgust Election.” The question Egan is asking is one heard, too, after McCutcheon: “Did anyone think we needed more money in politics?”
By Adam LiptakWASHINGTON — People used to complain that Supreme Court decisions were too long and tangled. Those were the days.In recent weeks, the court has addressed cases on the great issues of the day without favoring the nation with even a whisper of explanation. In terse orders, the court expanded the availability of same-sex marriage, let a dozen abortion clinics in Texas reopen, and made it harder to vote in three states and easier in one.
By George F. WillThe early-morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens’ homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children’s, were ransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told that it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.Some raids were precursors of, others were parts of, the nastiest episode of this unlovely political season, an episode that has occurred in an unlikely place. This attempted criminalization of politics to silence people occupying just one portion of the political spectrum has happened in Wisconsin, which often has conducted robust political arguments with Midwestern civility.From the progressivism of Robert La Follette to the conservatism of Gov. Scott Walker (R) today, Wisconsin has been fertile soil for conviction politics. Today, the state’s senators are the very conservative Ron Johnson (R)and the very liberal Tammy Baldwin (D). Now, however, Wisconsin, which to its chagrin produced Sen. Joe McCarthy (R), has been embarrassed by Milwaukee County’s Democratic district attorney, John Chisholm. He has used Wisconsin’s uniquely odious “John Doe” process to launch sweeping and virtually unsupervised investigations while imposing gag orders to prevent investigated people from defending themselves or rebutting politically motivated leaks.
By Steve TetreultWASHINGTON — The Senate Ethics Committee “never received” a complaint filed almost a year ago against Sen. Harry Reid by a conservative watchdog group that said it has receipts showing it was delivered.Cause of Action went public this week saying the committee had never responded to its complaint filed Dec. 16. Executive Director Daniel Epstein suggested it had either been dismissed without notification, or ignored.In a letter made public on Friday, the group said it got a call back from the committee staff director indicating the complaint was “never received.”
By Alison Leigh CowanoctHe announced at the same event that he was “committed to raising all the money I need from this district” to run his campaign: “Friends who live outside the district say, ‘Ted, we want to contribute to you.’ And I say, ‘Do me a favor and contribute to the state Democratic Party or the local Democratic Parties in these towns.’ ”Candidates for State Senate who can raise $15,000 in qualifying donations of $100 or less from at least 300 local voters receive an additional $94,690 from state coffers. In July, Mr. Kennedy met the conditions to receive his full grant, and Mr. Wilson qualified in September.But within days of Mr. Kennedy’s promising that he would confine his fund-raising to the district, family members began making big gifts to the state party.