CCP Surprise, Surprise: Partisan Grandstanding from FEC Commissioners Has Hurt the Agency’s Morale Joe Albanese The Federal Election Commission’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently released a July 2016 study on the root causes of its infamously low employee morale. After receiving survey responses from 185 out of the Commission’s roughly 338 employees, the Office […]
The recent news of the leaked DNC emails, along with the more recent DCCC hack, has left many observers concerned about the state of privacy in the modern world and more specifically about the worrisome potential for hacking to become a common tactic for political opposition. Both hacks were not only criminal acts, but also […]
It was Obama who famously sounded the alarm about Citizens United when he called out the high court’s justices during his 2011 State of the Union speech. He warned it would “open the floodgates of special interests …” Opponents have run with that narrative ever since. Say something often enough, and maybe it’ll stick.
But as Bradley A. Smith, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, noted in a Reuters article last year as the five-year anniversary of the decision approached, “political spending has not exploded under Citizens United.”
Instead, Smith noted that total political spending in 2014, after adjusting for inflation, was only 1.5 percent higher than in 2006, which was the last midterm election before Citizens United.
Supposedly ruinous “outside spending” hasn’t choked the system, either. It comprised 13 percent of total political spending in 2014, Smith said. In 2000, a decade before Citizens United, the total was 17 percent.
Kenneth P. Doyle
The case set for en banc argument involves a challenge to campaign contribution rules brought by a married couple, Laura Holmes and Paul Jost. They argued that having separate contribution limits for primary and general elections is unfair and unconstitutional because it advantages some candidates—often including incumbents—who face no primary challenge. Under current FEC rules, such candidates can use primary contributions to fund a general election race.
Holmes and Jost are being represented in the case by the nonprofit Center for Competitive Politics, a critic of campaign finance regulation.
Attorneys for the FEC have argued that the Supreme Court has consistently upheld the constitutionality of campaign contribution limits, including separate limits for primary and general elections. However, the D.C. Circuit panel ruling in April said it was not “frivolous” to challenge such contribution limits.
The courts are an uncertain bulwark against speech chilling regulation. The Supreme Court just refused to consider a nonprofit’s challenge to a Delaware law that required disclosure of the nonprofit’s donors as the price for speaking. Justice Thomas authored a rare dissent: “Given the specter of these First Amendment harms, a State’s purported interest in disclosure cannot justify revealing the identities of an organization’s otherwise anonymous donors.”
For most citizens, the only means to participate effectively in public debate other than voting is to join financially with others. The First Amendment protects the privacy of that association. Where prosecutors and regulators wield the cudgel of “disclosure” with the effect — and the purpose — of chilling those with whom they disagree, they harm public discourse and violate the First Amendment.
Bradley Smith, Chairman and Founder of the Center for Competitive Politics and former Chairman of the Federal Elections Commission, discusses why Americans must vociferously protect their right to privacy in the political arena, the Supreme Court decision to deny an appeal of a lawsuit challenging a radical disclosure law in Delaware, and the latest push […]