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 Brad Smith
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
Democrats in Congress have signaled their intention to make campaign finance a major theme of the Gorsuch hearings this week. No doubt with that in mind, the anti-speech group Demos has rushed out a document criticizing past U.S. Supreme Court decisions that, they claim, have “benefited a small class of wealthy, white conservative men.” The […]
Filed Under: Blog, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Communications, Issues, Money in Politics, Buckley v. Valeo, campaign finance, Davis v. FEC, Demos, Donald Trump, Gorsuch, McCutcheon, Neil Gorsuch, PACs, Sierra Club, Supreme Court
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL Hon. Susana Martinez Governor, State of New Mexico 490 Old Santa Fe Trail Room 400 Santa Fe, NM 87501 RE: Constitutional and Practical Issues with Senate Bill 96 Dear Governor Martinez: On behalf of the Center for Competitive Politics (“the Center”), we respectfully submit the following comments on constitutional issues with portions […]
By Bradley A. Smith
Last month a 2,500-word hit piece by Nancy Cook was published in Politico magazine with signs of Deep State intervention. Cook’s article explores McGahn’s tenure as a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from 2008 to 2013…
Cook builds her case on anonymous comments from “a former FEC lawyer,” “former FEC official[s],” “longtime staffers,” “former FEC staffer[s],” and “former senior official[s].”The quotes and anecdotes that follow those titles constitute nearly all the article’s negative comments about McGahn’s tenure at the FEC…
Wherever these comments originate, the big clue that Cook and her anonymous sources are unserious is the nature of the attacks made on McGahn. He’s “a one-man wrecking crew,” “not going to be a truth-teller,” a “bomb-throwing enabler” – you get the picture. Yet conspicuously absent is any allegation that McGahn behaved unethically, failed to follow the law, or treated staff, investigative targets, or complainants unfairly. Rather, the sources offer the generic griping of people who did not agree with McGahn on policy and were frustrated by his success at the FEC.
By Bradley A. Smith
New Mexico law already has strong disclosure rules. Contributions to political candidates and parties are publicly disclosed. Additionally, “political committees” – anyone who spends over $500 “primarily for a political purpose” – already must file extensive paperwork that is placed on the internet by the state for anyone to see. Such groups must file a complicated series of reports, documenting every dollar spent and every contribution received. They must further list the names and home addresses of every contributor who gives over $500…
Unfortunately, Sen. Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and others in New Mexico have long been long pushing for even more disclosure. This disclosure would not be from candidates, parties, and political committees, but from a much broader array of civic organizations. Enter SB 96, a bill ushered through the Senate and currently before the House, that extends New Mexico’s disclosure rules to anyone who mentions a candidate in any ad near an election. This bill “fixes” campaign finance laws in the same way a law applying gun control regulations to Nerf weapons would “fix” gun laws.
By Brad Smith
Seven years after Citizens United, the whole “corporations aren’t people” and therefore shouldn’t have rights bit is getting pretty tiresome. Certainly, our elected officials should be held to a higher standard of debate.
Yes, it’s true that if you’ve never thought about it, the idea that “corporations are people” seems absurd on its face. Corporations are not people, of course. But, for many purposes, it makes perfect sense that the law treats them as such. For example, if the law did not treat corporations as people, they couldn’t be sued. The bigger point, though, is that corporations have rights because people have rights, and people form and own corporations. This is a principle as old as the American Republic, re-emphasized by the Supreme Court as early as 1819 in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward. A corporation, the Court noted, “is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.” But that didn’t mean that people gave up their rights when they formed a corporation. Rather, the decision emphasized that when people join together to accomplish things, they usually need some form of organization, and shouldn’t have to sacrifice their rights just because they organize.
Washington Examiner: Soon-to-be former Democratic FEC chair tried to politicize the bipartisan commission (In the News)
By Bradley A. Smith
Commissioner Ravel came to Washington with a sincere desire to make the FEC a more effective, more efficient agency. Her plans, however, broke down in a combination of ideological overreach and a disdain for the hard work of democracy and governance.
Ravel ignored advice to focus her efforts on modest but meaningful goals that would have bipartisan support at the FEC, such as updating outdated regulations and improving reporting guidelines and mechanisms. Instead, she sought to implement a sweeping progressive campaign finance agenda that had not passed Congress: imposing controls on new media and pushing for unprecedented invasions of Americans’ political lives under the guise of “disclosure.”…
Ravel ends her stint on a disappointing note, with a flurry of media activity and the publication of a “report” prepared by her office offering tendentious descriptions of cases on which she lost votes at the FEC. As proof that the agency’s Republicans are violating their constitutional oaths to “enforce the law” she offers the mere fact that she could not muster a majority of the commission to agree with her.