By Bradley A. Smith and Paul Gessing
Bureaucratic rule-makings can serve an important function. They help to implement and clarify laws that are passed by the Legislature. But here, instead of implementing the law, the Secretary of State’s Office is enacting rules that were rejected in the constitutional lawmaking process. Although pitched as “political disclosure,” as Martinez wrote in her veto message in April, “the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances.”…
Nonprofit speech about candidates allows voters to hear the varied perspectives of groups that do valuable work in our communities. For a variety of religious, civic and political reasons, many donors to these organizations do not want to have their names and home addresses published online for their boss and nosy neighbors to see. Rest assured, many groups will choose silence over exposing their supporters’ private information.
By Bradley A. Smith and Paul Gessing
By Bradley Smith and Paul Gessing
This spring, the New Mexico Legislature considered imposing new donor disclosure rules on nonprofit organizations. The measure was vetoed by Governor Martinez over privacy concerns. Now Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is attempting to impose those rules by bureaucratic fiat, using a regulation to enact what couldn’t be done through the normal lawmaking process.
Bureaucratic rules can serve an important function. They help to implement and clarify laws that are passed by the legislature.
But here, instead of implementing the law, the Secretary of State’s Office is enacting rules that were rejected in the constitutional lawmaking process. Although pitched as “political disclosure,” as Governor Martinez wrote in her veto message in April, “the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances.”
Furthermore, the rules, if adopted, will almost certainly be challenged in court…
Governor Martinez wisely chose to avoid this course of action for New Mexico. We should be cautious when considering proposals that restrict or chill charitable giving. We should especially not impose such policies through a subversion of the democratic process.
Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub’s actions in recent months cast serious doubt on whether she can continue to credibly carry on her duties as a Commissioner. She should recognize this predicament and do the honorable thing, which is to resign. Back in February, Commissioner Weintraub created a bit of a stir when she issued a […]
By Brad Smith
Today, the FEC is under attack from members of Congress with a misguided proposal to “reform” the agency. A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11, Hazleton) would shrink the agency from six commissioners to five. It may sound minor, but it has huge implications.
Republicans and Democrats now have equal influence over the commission. With six commissioners, at least one vote from each side is needed to write new rules or open investigations. In a proposed five-commissioner agency, one party would consistently trump the other.
The proposal would give the president the power to choose the pivotal fifth vote. In theory, no more than two commissioners could be from the same party, so no party would have a majority. But that would be illusory – for example, a Democratic president could appoint socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders; Trump could appoint a registered independent, such as his daughter Ivanka. The president could also name a commissioner to a 10-year term as chairman, meaning that the disadvantaged party would spend a decade on the losing end, even if it managed to win the presidency in between. The result, could be a partisan agency not trusted by roughly half of Americans.
By Brad Smith
Buck’s proposal would give the president the power to choose the pivotal fifth vote. In theory, no more than two commissioners could be from the same party, so no party would have a majority. But that would be illusory. For example, a Democratic president could appoint Socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders; Donald Trump could appoint a registered Independent, such as his daughter Ivanka. The president would also name one commissioner to a 10-year term as chairman, meaning the disadvantaged party will spend a full decade on the losing end, even if it managed to win the presidency in between. The result, before long, will be a partisan agency not trusted by roughly half of Americans.
Washington Examiner: Is the Supreme Court about to give state and local political parties a boost? (In the News)
By Bradley A. Smith
As part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance “reform” of 2002, virtually everything these local parties do was brought into the web of federal regulation, and their sources of funding largely cut off. A poorly-reasoned Supreme Court decision, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, upheld these restrictions against a constitutional challenge in 2003. Cases decided since McConnell, however, have relied on traditional First Amendment reasoning to overturn many parts of that decision. One of the few parts that remains is the restrictions on state and local parties.
The Supreme Court now has a chance to rectify this element of the McConnell decision. Currently before the court is the case of Republican Party of Louisiana v. Federal Election Commission, which challenges those legal restrictions on state and local party activity. The party’s position is simple: Why can super PACs, or a nonprofit like Planned Parenthood Action Fund, accept and spend unlimited sums from any source to influence elections, while political parties cannot? And how can parties corrupt their own candidates by trying to help them win elections?
By Brad Smith
The Watergate scandal that forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency showed the dangers of allowing one party to use the power of government against the other. In the aftermath, the Federal Election Commission was created to make sure future administrations could not abuse campaign regulations to bludgeon their opponents.
But today the FEC is under attack from members of Congress whose misguided proposal to “reform” the agency could take us back to the Watergate era. A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Renacci, an Ohio Republican, would shrink the agency from six commissioners to five…
Proponents justify this radical change by pointing to gridlock at the FEC. But in fact, the FEC usually reaches a majority vote except on controversial cases – The Center for Competitive Politics’ 2015 analysis found that 93 percent of FEC decisions were bipartisan. And not all gridlock is bad. A six-member commission with three votes on each side was designed to allow gridlock when the parties are in firm disagreement over whether campaign finance laws were violated.
By Bradley Smith
In Holmes v. FEC, my organization, the Center for Competitive Politics, represents plaintiffs who are challenging the timing of contribution limits in federal races, but not the limits themselves. Federal law limits donors to contributing $2,700 to a candidate for the primary election, and another $2,700 for the general election. Many incumbents, however, do not face a primary challenger. They can raise $5,400 per donor and effectively spend it all on the general…
This is not fair to donors, it’s not fair to challengers, and it serves no anti-corruption purpose. As President Barack Obama’s former White House Counsel Bob Bauer writes, “donors do not potentially corrupt candidates in the primary, or the general, or a run-off: the corruption, if it occurs, is the result of the amounts given through the date that the candidate is elected to office.”…
It wouldn’t be hard to make the insensible sensible here. Contribution limits should be apportioned by election cycle, rather than split between the general and the primary. A win for the petitioners in Holmes would make the law simpler and fairer, and that’s something we should all get behind.
Rick Hasen thinks that Judge Gorsuch “misstates” the holding of Citizens United v. FEC in his Senate testimony, when he states: I think there is ample room for this body to legislate, even in light of Citizens United, whether it has to do with contribution limits, whether it has to with expenditure limits, or whether it has […]
Filed Under: Blog, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Issues, Buckley v. Valeo, Derek Muller, Gorsuch, Neil Gorsuch, Rick Hasen, Supreme Court
As most any law student can tell you, “strict scrutiny” is the toughest standard of judicial review in federal court. Normally, it applies whenever the government seeks to place limits on the exercise of a “fundamental right.” To survive “strict scrutiny,” a law must address a “compelling” government interest, and be “narrowly tailored” to address […]
Filed Under: Blog, Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits Press Release/In the News/Blog, Amy Klobuchar, Federal Election Campaign Act, First Amendment, Gorsuch, Hobby Lobby, Neil Gorsuch, Riddle v. Hickenlooper, strict scrutiny, Supreme Court, Colorado