State lawmakers to take up subsidies for Albany pols

Despite proposing some common-sense reforms, many of the ethics and campaign finance proposals pending in the New York legislature are at odds with the First Amendment and seem unlikely to achieve the bill’s intended goals.

In a letter to New York lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Center for Competitive Politics examines the legal and policy problems with New York Assembly Bill 1267 and other proposals not yet introduced as legislation.

The bill advances some sensible proposals, such as the creation of an investigatory state ethics board, mandating disclosure of candidate income, and tightening usage of campaign contributions. However, additional problematic proposals include singling out state contractors and lobbyists for lower contribution limits and creating a system of tax financed elections.

“Other states that have implemented tax financing programs cannot show a single, tangible ‘benefit’ from the programs besides the ever increasing number of politicians willing to sign up for campaign welfare,” said Laura Renz, CCP’s Director of Research and Government Relations. “There’s no evidence to support the notion that opening the public purse to subsidize lawmakers’ campaigns will reduce corruption.”

Filed Under: Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits Press Release/In the News/Blog, Contribution Limits State, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Disclosure State, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases, State, State Press Releases and Blogs, Maine

CCP files brief in Ariz. tax financing case

The Center for Competitive Politics filed a friend of the court brief in a case before the Supreme Court that will determine the fate of the “matching funds” subsidy in Arizona’s tax financing system for political campaigns as well as similar programs in Connecticut, Maine, and Wisconsin.

The brief, authored by CCP Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward, argues that Arizona must prove a state interest to support government intervention in political campaigns on behalf of particular candidates.

“The Supreme Court should question the assumption that ‘clean elections’ laws serve any legitimate governmental purpose,” Hayward said. “When the court considers neutral academic studies of tax financing laws, the lack of evidence of any real benefits and the larger problems inherent with state subsidization of political activity, we’re confident the court will conclude that Arizona’s program violates the First Amendment.”

Filed Under: External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases, Tax Financed Campaigns Federal, Tax Financed Campaigns Press Release/In the News/Blog, Tax Financed Campaigns State, Tax-Financing, Maine

EVENT—After Citizens United: The Future of Campaign Finance

The Center for Competitive Politics will hold a panel discussion on the eve of the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The event will be held Thurs., Jan. 20 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Cannon House Office Building, Room 122.

Filed Under: Blog

CRS on campaign finance

The Congressional Research Service has published a report examining campaign finance issues Congress may consider in the future, Rick Hasen notes at the Election Law Blog.

The overview, entitled “The State of Campaign Finance Policy: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress,” takes a relatively broad view of campaign finance legislative options but doesn’t offer any recommendations (per CRS’ mandate).

After a summary of campaign finance law developments, the author, R. Sam Garrett, delves into a range of options that Congress may or may not act on.

Filed Under: Blog

A double dose of crazy talk

Two members of Congress who lost their reelection campaigns are inventing outlandish tales to explain their losses.

First, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) told ABC News that unknown Chinese forces, buoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, may have swayed the midterm elections:

“I think it’s strangling us,” she said. “They’re in the halls of Congress everywhere, and it means, for example, that you sit on a committee and you say something about concern about Chinese influence or something, you don’t even know if in the next election, somehow or another, they manage to send some money to some group that now doesn’t even have to say where they got it.”

Later in the interview, Shea-Porter hilariously—and hypocritically—complained that the media focused too heavily on negativity in Congress based on spurious allegations of campaign finance corruption:

“I have listened to people on television say things like, ‘Well, everybody’s on the take in Washington,’ as if that’s a given fact. I think it just makes people more cynical about the whole process,” Shea-Porter said.

Filed Under: Blog

Conn. parties seek SCOTUS review of tax financing ruling

Connecticut’s Green and Libertarian parties filed a petition today with the Supreme Court to seek review of an appellate court’s decision involving Connecticut’s tax financing law.

Connecticut’s minor parties want the Supreme Court to take up the case to determine whether state campaign finance law discriminates against minor party candidates by imposing stringent qualifying requirements coupled with a trigger provision that punishes third party candidates who qualify by then giving additional government subsidies to their major party opponents.

Filed Under: Blog, Connecticut, Maine

RNC asks SCOTUS to hear coordination case

Lawyers for the Republican National Committee filed a petition this week seeking review of an appellate court decision on coordination restrictions affecting parties and candidates.

The petition in the case, Cao v. Federal Election Commission, was filed Dec. 8. In September, an en banc panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiffs, Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-La.), the Republican Party of Louisiana and the RNC. Cao and the RNC are represented by super-campaign finance litigator James Bopp, Jr. of Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom. Bopp is also an RNC vice-chairman.

Filed Under: Blog, Maine

CCP releases post-2010 policy agenda

Blockbuster court decisions reshaped campaign finance law this year, and the Watergate-era regulatory structure has struggled to keep up with the modern realities of political activity. As a result, the rights of independent groups have been restored while parties and candidates face a competitive disadvantage.

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) released an agenda today, “After 2010: A Modern Agenda for Campaign Finance Reform,” which outlines steps policymakers can take to increase incentives for citizen participation in politics, encourage electoral competition and simplify the maze of campaign finance regulations.

“After the failure of the DISCLOSE Act, which inflamed partisan tensions, this reform agenda offers a way forward for the next Congress to overhaul campaign finance law while respecting First Amendment rights,” said Bradley A. Smith, the chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics and a former FEC chairman.

This session, Congress properly rejected the DISCLOSE Act, which would have restricted the political speech of business groups while inventing new, onerous disclosure and disclaimer regulations. The Federal Election Commission is in the process of implementing a rulemaking to change campaign finance regulations following the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

“Congress should consider reforms to ensure that parties remain relevant,” said Allison Hayward, CCP’s vice president of policy. “Enhancing the ability of candidates to effectively communicate their message to voters in a post-2010 world will improve our election process and help to sustain the competitive balance vital to our democratic republic.”

“We hope these proposals, gleaned from a range of bipartisan suggestions, serve as a starting point for a renewed debate over campaign finance laws in Congress and at the Federal Election Commission,” Hayward said.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases

CCP submits comments to Md. campaign finance committee

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to advancing First Amendment political rights, submitted comments today to a Maryland panel considering changes to campaign finance law.

CCP’s policy recommendations include raising contribution limits to permit effective political speech within the structure of campaigns. This reform would diminish the time candidates need to spend fundraising and discourage strategies such as using multiple LLCs and loans to contribute to candidates. The Baltimore Sun‘s editorial board recently suggested such an approach.

“Overly restrictive contribution limits to candidates—as well as restrictive aggregate limits—encourage political funding to move to other, less transparent or accountable recipients,” wrote Allison Hayward, CCP’s Vice President of Policy.

Filed Under: Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits Press Release/In the News/Blog, Contribution Limits State, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Disclosure State, External Relations Sub-Pages, Press Releases

FCC’s Copps calls for authority to regulate campaign finance

In a Dec. 2 speech at the Columbia Journalism School, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps suggested that the agency had authority to regulate campaign finance disclosure for independent political groups.

Copps, once a staffer for former Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) is one of three Democrats on the five-person panel. He referred to independent political spending as “carpet-bombing” and an “undemocratic sin.” No other commissioner appears to have called for such expansive FCC authority over political regulation. The Federal Election Commission, of course, already has jurisdiction to enforce campaign finance laws.

Filed Under: Blog