The Un-DISCLOSEd Witness

Every so often a congressional committee holds a hearing with a “mystery witness,” a whistle-blowing employee or a criminal informant who testifies from behind a screen with no name provided. It’s great theatre and sometimes provides compelling evidence.

The House Administration Committee’s recent hearings on the “DISCLOSE Act” went the mystery route one better, including (or, perhaps more accurately, excluding) a mysteriously missing witness: anyone from the Federal Election Commission, the agency that would be charged with enforcing the proposed law.

Whether an oversight or a deliberate exclusion, the omission speaks volumes about the attitude and intention of the Committee’s unseemly rush to push DISCLOSE towards passage. Apparently the Committee isn’t really interested in a serious discussion about how the legislation would work, to whom it would apply, and whether its apparent effects really are intended.

Read the rest of Mason’s commentary at The Washington Examiner‘s Opinion Zone.

Filed Under: Blog

Government-regulated Greeting Cards

Did you get a holiday greeting card from a favorite politician this year?  Was it truly personal, or sent to 50,000 close friends?  Fear not! Lest anyone be fooled, government requires politicians’ cards to contain a disclaimer, set apart in a printed box no less.

Political disclaimers once were required only when politicians were plumping for votes or begging for money.  But sensing something, somehow, might slip the regulatory noose, the McCain-Feingold bill extended disclaimer requirements to any public communication by a campaign: including greeting cards.  The inability, or unwillingness, to distinguish something that might actually need regulating from a pointless overreaction is all too typical of the modern administrative state.  It is a reminder that "reasonable regulation" is a rare beast, if not an oxymoron.

A campaign finance law that concerns itself with the dangers of holiday greeting cards is terminally myopic; all the more likely to miss any real threat precisely because of its focus on the insignificant.

As you count your blessings this season, remember to number government greeting card regulation among them.

Filed Under: Blog

WWJD: What Would Jefferson Do?

Barack Obama is upset about lies he thinks are being told about him.  CCP and others are alarmed by threats to resort to criminal and regulatory processes to silence his critics.

In trying situations we sometimes ask what great leaders would do.  In the case of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic Party, we don’t have to guess.

Jefferson was subject to outrageous attacks on his patriotism (too French), his religious beliefs (allegedly atheist), and his personal life.  His political allies were actually thrown in jail for criticizing the ruling Federalists.  Armed conflict seemed a real possibility.

Jefferson fought back hard, but he used the press and the political process, not threats of prosecution.  Rather than turning the tables once he gained power, he used the experience to show America, and the world, the superiority of free speech over government coercion to combat error.  It’s a lesson the Obama campaign should learn.

Filed Under: Blog

Defending Nancy Pelosi

The Center for Competitive Politics welcomes former FEC Commissioner David Mason as an occasional contributor to the blog. His first post follows:

Put me down as opposed to most of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s political aims, but she deserves some defense from a front page ethics attack in today’s Washington Times

The Times reports dramatically that "Pelosi’s PAC pays bills for spouse’s firm", referring to $99,000 in payments over the past 9 years.  The problem is, there is no evidence, at least in the Times story or FEC reports, that the PAC is paying bills for Paul Pelosi’s apparently successful firm, FLS, much less that Paul Pelosi is "on the payroll" of the PAC as suggested in the story.

What FEC reports do show is a classic Catch-22 that Federal campaign finance law creates: Pelosi’s PAC cannot accept free rent from her husband’s business, but if she pays rent, as required by law, she’s accused of lining her family’s pockets.  The kerfuffle has nothing really to do with ethics, and no bearing on any important issue, but it gets front page treatment because the mere hint of corruption is politically powerful.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog