By David BossieIn the five years since the Supreme Court decided Citizens United vs. F.E.C., liberal special interests have attempted to silence independent speech and the voices of non-profit organizations.Their radical agenda has been embraced by President Obama and Democrats in Congress. Sadly, these efforts to blunt the First Amendment protections of political speech have even been championed by government bureaucrats within the Internal Revenue Service.Short-sighted efforts by liberals to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United have overwhelmingly failed. To a vast majority of Americans, the language of the First Amendment is clear. The attempts of President Obama and Senator Harry Reid to turn elections into referendums on campaign finance law are laughable. Obama and Reid could not distract the American public by shifting their focus from the Democrats’ failed agenda to attacking Citizens United or the Koch brothers. The American people spoke at the ballot box and carried a wave of Republicans in to office.
By Lee DrutmanBut in the five years since the ruling, large corporations have mostly declined the generous offer. If you scour the names of super PAC contributors, with only a few minor exceptions, you don’t see the big blue-chip corporations that dominate Washington lobbying. Rather, the rise of super PACs empowered a new category of campaign kingpins: large individual donors such as Sheldon Adelson and Tom Steyer.There is a simple reason for this: For big corporations, multimillion-dollar electoral spending just doesn’t deliver the same return on investment that traditional inside-the-Beltway lobbying does. Worse, it could earn companies some enemies, too.Large companies wield impressive influence by flooding the Capitol, the White House and federal agencies with dozens of lobbyists, sometimes upward of 100 , almost always from both sides of the political aisle. Many lobbyists enjoy access because they are well-liked and well-connected, often because they worked in government previously. Some have access because they are deeply knowledgeable about a particular subject and their expertise is valuable. Some are all of the above.
By Carrie LevineIn the wake of that stellar win-loss record, a Chamber celebration should be in order — but that’s not how it’s playing out. In fact, as Congress leaves town for two weeks of Easter recess, there’s been remarkably little progress in the first three months of the new Congress on many of the biggest items on the Chamber’s wish list — comprehensive tax reform, immigration reform, a long-term highway bill — and the prospects for action later this year are equally bleak.But leaders of the business lobby are soldiering on undaunted. Instead, the Chamber, whose imposing limestone headquarters fronted by Corinthian columns stand watch over the White House in the heart of Washington, D.C., is taking the long view. Perhaps that’s a natural strategy for an institution that has represented business in the halls of political power for more than a century.
By Bob BauerA road like this was taken before and it led to McCain-Feingold. For all the emphasis placed on John McCain’s support (together with that of a limited number of other Republicans), this was mainly a party-line affair and the losers swore that they would fight back, as they did and with considerable success. Many Democrats were equivocal about key provisions but saw no political way out of support for the reform line.Now, barely decade later, this reform initiative has been sorely tested, a chunk of it gone from the law while what remains struggles to hold on. These problems are regularly blamed on the Roberts Court, or on savvy strategies of circumvention, or on a polarized and ideological politics that has crippled the Federal Election Commission. But equally true is the sheer difficulty of writing and implementing these enactments: there are questions of design, efficacy and constitutionality that cannot be avoided. And for this reason, the reform skeptics’ objections cannot be wished or explained away.
By Kimberley StrasselConservative thought on campus these days is rare, though for some it’s still not rare enough. Witness the growing campaign by politicians, unions and environmentalists to intimidate into silence any academic or program that might challenge liberal ideology.Congressional Democrats have grabbed most of the attention here, with their recent attempt to cow climate skeptics. Richard Lindzen, an emeritus professor of meteorology at MIT and a Cato Institute scholar, earlier this month described in these pages how House Rep. Raul Grijalva was targeting seven academics skeptical of President Obama’s climate policies, demanding documents about their funding and connections. A trio of Senate Democrats is working to muzzle more than 100 nonprofits and companies that have questioned the climate agenda, with a fishing expedition into their correspondence.Largely unnoticed is that the congressional climate crusaders didn’t come up with this idea on their own. For several years a coalition of liberal organizations have been using “disclosure” to sully the names of conservative professors and try to shut down their programs. Their particular targets are academics who benefit from funding from the Koch Foundation, which has for decades funded free-market professors and groups on U.S. campuses.
EditorialHe is a lifelong friend of Harvey Whittemore, the Reno businessman and lawyer (whose firm has employed all of Reid’s sons at one time or another) who was convicted of three felonies and sentenced to prison for evading campaign-finance laws to funnel money into Reid’s reelection campaign.Later, Reid had the audacity to call it “campaign-finance reform” when he attempted to gut the First Amendment — and got every Senate Democrat to vote with him — so that independent political groups could be stifled with speech restrictions in the interest of protecting incumbents.
By Emily FlitterBank officials said the idea of withholding donations was not discussed at a meeting of the four banks in Washington but it has been raised in one-on-one conversations between representatives of some of them. However, there was no agreement on coordinating any action, and each bank is making its own decision, they said.The amount of money at stake, a maximum of $15,000 per bank, means the gesture is symbolic rather than materialMoreover, banks’ hostility toward Warren, who is not a presidential candidate, will not have a direct impact on the presumed Democratic front runner in the White House race, Hillary Clinton. That’s because their fund-raising groups focus on congressional races rather than the presidential election.
By Alexandra Petri“I feel like a nobody,” a CEO sighed, scratching the neck of his miniature giraffe with the tines of a golden fork once used by Henry VIII. “It’s awful. This is my country, and I want to have some kind of a say in who’s governing.”“My calls to candidates go straight to voice mail,” an executive agreed, wistfully throwing a giant roll of dollar bills into the middle of an arena for two selected peasants to fight over. “It’s like I’m nobody.”“We used to matter,” a multimillionaire lamented, killing an orca with a gold-tipped spear. “They used to need us. I used to feel like my elected officials were listening.”
By M.D. KittleBut could the accountability board’s nonparty amicus brief be in violation of a federal court injunction? One constitutional law expert tells Wisconsin Watchdog the brief is skating pretty close to the edge.“It is possible to think that it would turn on how far (the judge’s) order will extend. The language of the order is kind of broad,” said Rick Esenberg, president and founder of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty,a Milwaukee-based public interest law firm.Esenberg refers to U.S. District Court Judge Charles N. Clevert Jr.’s final declaratory judgment and permanent injunction in February clearly prohibiting the GAB and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm from conducting any investigations into conservative groups using a tired legal theory rejected in multiple courts.
By Bruce Vielmetti and Patrick MarleyMadison — The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday it would not hear arguments — in secret or in public — as it considers whether to allow an investigation to continue that has looked into whether Gov. Scott Walker’scampaign illegally worked with conservative groups in recall elections.“The prospect of oral argument creates severe tension between important and conflicting priorities,” the court wrote, citing the long tradition of open courts and the secrecy of the John Doe.Instead, the court will decide the matter based on hundreds of pages of briefs that have been filed in the cases, mostly in secret, because the court also rejected a special prosecutor’s argument that the secrecy genie has already largely escaped the bottle.
By M.D. KittleMADISON, Wis. – The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce by the end of next month whether it will take up a request for review by Wisconsin conservatives caught up in a political John Doe investigation.Attorneys for Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth on Friday filed a reply to a brief submitted by the probe’s prosecutors, who are trying to protect an appeals court decision that O’Keefe and fellow conservatives charge is replete with errors.
EditorialThe bipartisan silence testified to the growing importance to both parties of anonymous campaign donations. With each passing year since 2010, when the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates to secretive political giving, politicians appear to value so-called dark money more and value disclosure of unnamed donors less. The issue was finally broached by Representative Michael Capuano, Democrat of Massachusetts. He observed that shareholders have a right to know how corporate cash is spent, and demanded to know why the S.E.C. has not required disclosure. Ms. White gave the same answer she has given since she became chairwoman in 2013 — essentially, that the agency is too busy with more important issues.
By Colbert I. KingAccording to a transcript from that hearing, Kollar-Kotelly said, “Let me just interrupt. There are certain — because we have some people identified with ‘Person A’ and various things, I’ve requested that at least for what appears to be out in the public sector, Candidate A and the mayoral candidate, that you actually indicate that. Other individuals I have left with simply other denominations or pseudonyms.”So Machen knew what was coming when Thompson entered that courtroom on March 10 — namely that Gray, an uncharged individual, would be publicly accused of knowing about Thompson’s unlawful behavior; that the disclosure would occur within weeks of voters going to the polls; and that Gray would have no opportunity to confront his accusers or review the evidence against him in a court of law.Gray was left to defend himself in the court of public opinion.The choice of identifying Gray in Thompson’s proceedings was the judge’s. The timing was Machen’s.
The House, on a 51-48 vote Saturday, passed a major campaign finance bill aimed at requiring so-called “dark money” groups to report their donors and their expenses.Senate Bill 289, by Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, now returns to the Senate to approve an amendment added in the House. It then will go to Gov. Steve Bullock for his signature.Bullock and Ankney teamed up on the bill, which is aimed at toughening Montana campaign finance laws to address “dark money” groups.SB289 would require nonprofit groups, which say they are education groups but which sometimes spend money supporting or opposing candidates, to report their finances, just as other political committees do.