The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), through strategic litigation, communication, activism, training, research, and education, works to promote and defend First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly, and petition. We are the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.
The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” Despite that clear command, federal campaign finance laws and regulations now contain over 375,000 words that are widely regarded to be nearly incomprehensible. State laws are often worse. Such complexity makes arbitrary and selective enforcement more likely, and has enabled politicians and bureaucrats to harass, intimidate, and persecute their political opponents in order to silence their voices.
Since our founding in November 2005, CCP has sought to protect the rights of Americans to engage in free speech on issues of politics, public policy, and elections. Our victories in the courts, in Congress, in federal regulatory agencies, and in state legislatures have freed vast swaths of American political life from mind-numbing, counterproductive regulations. These restrictions on speech were often enacted with the express intention of reducing political competition, driving dissenting voices from the debate, and enhancing the power of the unelected administrative state. Although there is more to be done, American public discourse is unquestionably freer thanks to CCP’s efforts.
Free political speech guaranteed by the First Amendment is the most important right. Without it, improving government is impossible. Despite its importance, there is only one organization, the Center for Competitive Politics, with a dedicated professional staff and mission to promote and defend citizens’ First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly, and petition.
Brad Smith, the nation’s leading First Amendment political speech scholar, founded CCP in late 2005 and serves as Chairman. Since its founding, CCP has played a key role in every significant court case on political speech, and the result has been a dramatic restoration of First Amendment rights in the realm of political speech that few thought possible in so short a time.
Despite, or perhaps because of this success, these vital rights remain under relentless attack by politicians who seek to silence criticism and ensure their reelection.
Frustrated by losses in court, free speech opponents now promote intrusive new disclosure laws and regulations. Their top priority has been to pressure the IRS to impose draconian disclosure rules and restrictions on political speech by nonprofit advocacy groups.
The original goal of disclosure was to allow citizens to monitor the government. Today, disclosure is used to allow the government to monitor citizens and to enable groups to exact revenge through harassment, warning those who fund speech they oppose that they could be targeted next.
The Center’s four-part strategy to promote and defend free speech rights is simple and effective.
- Litigation to strike down bad laws and create precedent to expand speech rights.
- Research to analyze the effects of limits on political speech rights.
- Communications to make the case in the media for these First Amendment rights.
- External Relations activities to educate lawmakers and advocacy groups on the impact of proposed legislation that affects First Amendment political speech rights.
About half of our resources are directed at strategic litigation to attack laws and regulations that infringe on these First Amendment rights. As of September 2015, we were litigating eight cases, and won a final victory in a case in February 2015.
CCP publishes research on the effects of proposed laws and regulations that stymie First Amendment rights to free political speech. Our experts track and analyze proposed legislation and regulations at the federal and state levels that could harm these rights.
These efforts often lead to involvement in the regulatory rulemaking arena. For example, CCP is leading the fight against the proposed IRS rules that would limit the speech of nonprofit groups. We also monitor rulemaking activity in all federal agencies and have offered comments in response to many proposed federal rules.
We are continuing the expansion of our communications efforts to better educate the public on the threats to free speech and democracy coming from anti-speech activists. Articles by CCP staffers have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, the New York Post, and many other prominent publications, including Time, Forbes, The Sacramento Bee, the New York Daily News, and the Arizona Republic, to name just a few.
CCP’s major accomplishments since our inception in 2005 include:
- Contributing crucial original research and other evidence in every significant campaign finance case before the Supreme Court, and in several actions before lower courts. The Supreme Court struck down two key components of McCain-Feingold in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission and Davis v. Federal Election Commission, and also ruled Vermont’s contribution limits were too low in Randall v. Sorrell.
- Increasing our visibility and influence in the public debate. We are increasingly asked to contribute testimony, commentary, and research on the potential impact and constitutionality of proposed legislation by legislative bodies and executive agencies.
- Directly representing plaintiffs in court challenges to unconstitutional campaign finance laws on First Amendment grounds, as well as supporting efforts by others to strike down these laws. State and federal judges have rejected significant restrictions on First Amendment political rights in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, and elsewhere.
Legal Director Allen Dickerson and his team are challenging – to name a few examples of our active litigation – a federal contribution limit law that gives a big advantage to incumbents, a Delaware law requiring groups that publish neutral, nonpartisan voter guides to file complicated reports with state officials listing the private information of their supporters that give as little as $10 a month, a law in Indiana which prohibits campaign techniques commonly used by low-budget campaigns, and a Colorado law that forces citizens to register and report their activity to government bureaucrats, should they wish to voice a political opinion online.
We have increased our legal staff from one individual in 2011 to a team of five lawyers today and are currently counsel or amici in over a dozen active cases challenging restrictions on free speech, more than any other time in the history of our organization. We filed, and won, a challenge to a statewide ban on campaigning in the state of North Dakota on Election Day, and a federal judge awarded us over $35,000 in legal fees when we beat the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in court after the agency refused to give a group an advisory opinion about how to comply with the law. In the judge’s opinion, he wrote, “the FEC is supposed to be an expert on federal election law and its attorneys are required to know the current status of election law, especially Supreme Court and Circuit law.”
Top Rated Charity
Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, awarded the Center for Competitive Politics a 4-star rating, the top ranking. The 2015 rating is based on fiscal management and best practices in good governance.
Contributions to the Center for Competitive Politics are tax deductible as charitable contributions.
If you would like to learn more about our work, we encourage you to read our most recent annual report.
What They Are Saying
“The Center for Competitive Politics has taken the lead on defending the First Amendment against those seeking to limit and control political speech. Their successful efforts have led to more freedom for citizens to support the candidates and causes of their choice without government interference.”
President Emeritus, Cato Institute
“The Center for Competitive Politics effectively advocates a perspective on campaign finance and the First Amendment that too often went unheard before their arrival. By producing important research, commentary, and analysis, the Center has added a new voice and made a serious contribution to the way elected officials, media, the public, and the courts view these issues.”
Chair, Political Law Practice; Perkins Coie
“Finally, there’s an organization dedicated to fighting for the idea that the Founding Fathers meant it when they wrote ‘Congress shall make no law…’ Many of my colleagues in the media have come to rely on CCP for straight answers, sound research, and a pro-First Amendment perspective on campaign finance issues.”
Columnist, National Review Online
“The Center for Competitive Politics has provided invaluable and essential research to oppose the so-called ‘clean elections’ attack on core constitutional values of the First Amendment. My legislative colleagues and I have been helped greatly in our understanding of this important issue thanks to CCP.”
New Jersey Assemblyman
“As an FEC Commissioner I found CCP’s analysis, comments, and insight to be extraordinarily valuable to me and my fellow Commissioners. The so-called reform community has become concerned now that they are being aggressively challenged by CCP.”
Hans von Spakovsky
Former FEC Commissioner and Senior Legal Fellow/Manager at The Heritage Foundation’s Civil Justice Reform Initiative
How CCP Is Funded
In order to maintain its independence, the Center for Competitive Politics accepts no government funding. We receive funding from individuals and foundations. Approximately five percent of CCP’s funding comes from for-profit corporations. CCP is a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to CCP are tax deductible under the law.
The Center for Competitive Politics respects the privacy of our donors and their choice not to have their personal information shared with others. The Center does not and will not sell, rent, or trade donor information to organizations that use such information for commercial purposes. Occasionally, we make donor mailing lists available for one time use by selected nonprofits in return for donor lists from those organizations. This helps CCP continue to grow. Our donors may instruct that we exclude their information from any lists that we share. Please send all such requests to Alex Kroll (CCP’s Development Director) by email to [email protected] or by mail to 124 S. West St. #201, Alexandria VA 22314. They will be implemented as soon as possible.