Here’s a strange bit of advice I bet you haven’t heard before: trust politicians, but be wary of everyone else. It’s strange advice because it’s such bad advice. Politicians lie. Everyone knows politicians lie. They distort their positions to better match public opinion. They exploit political ignorance to fuel outrage at their opponents. They dodge […]
Filed Under: Amending Press Release/In the News/Blog, Amending the Constitution, Blog, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Federal Press Releases and Blogs, Issues, Super PACs, Claire McCaskill, congress, independent speech, Negative ads, Tom Udall, Udall Amendment, Missouri
Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO) is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus and the latest conservative to come out with a book criticizing the sausage-making in Washington, D.C. In 2013, it was Peter Schweizer with Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets. In 2015, it was Jay Cost’s A […]
The bipartisan makeup of the Federal Election Commission is coming under fire yet again. A House bill (H.R. 2034) would effectively disband the FEC and replace the agency with a new, partisan model of campaign finance law enforcement. Perhaps recognizing how unpopular this idea would be if put in plain English, the proposal’s backers couch […]
Filed Under: Blog, Enforcement, IRS and the Tea Party, Issues, Derek Kilmer, FEC, federal election commission, HR 2034, Jim Renacci, Restoring Integrity to America's Elections Act, richard nixon, Watergate, Montana, Wisconsin
American Spectator: Gorsuch Understands How Bureaucratic Bullies Harm First Amendment Rights (In the News)
By Luke Wachob
Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, appears to take seriously the threat to First Amendment freedoms posed by government intimidation. His ruling in a 2007 case should encourage defenders of donor privacy.
In Van Deelen v. Johnson, plaintiff Michael Van Deelen alleged that a sheriff deputy intimidated him during a meeting with a county appraiser. Van Deelen alleged that the sheriff deputy made intimidating gestures, bumped him, and warned, “They told me to do whatever necessary to put a scare into you. If you show up for another tax appeal hearing, I might have to shoot you.”
Van Deelen argued that these intimidation tactics infringed on his First Amendment right to petition government. Judge Gorsuch’s discussion of the case demonstrates a deep understanding that First Amendment rights are harmed when citizens can be bullied out of exercising them. “When public officials feel free to wield the powers of their office as weapons against those who question their decisions, they do damage not merely to the citizen in their sights but also to the First Amendment liberties and the promise of equal treatment essential to the continuity of our democratic enterprise,” Gorsuch explained.
By Luke Wachob
Bernie Sanders is demanding that Judge Gorsuch explain his “opposition to campaign finance reform.” Jeff Merkley is accusing conservatives of “packing the court” and threatening “the rights of ordinary citizens to have their voices heard in elections.” Sherrod Brown has already announced that he will vote against Gorsuch, saying, “I cannot support any nominee who does not recognize that corporations are not people.”
These attacks are beyond misleading. “Court-packing” brings to mind politically motivated efforts to increase the number of justices on a court, not the routine filling of a vacant seat. And so-called corporate personhood has been enshrined in law for centuries and is almost universally accepted by jurists. But there’s an even better reason to take these criticisms with a grain of salt.
These same senators voted in 2014 to amend the Constitution specifically because their idea of “campaign finance reform” could not exist under our current Constitution. In fact, 54 Democratic senators voted in favor of an amendment giving Congress nearly unlimited power to regulate political speech, effectively gutting the First Amendment.
Featuring Luke Wachob and Caleb O. Brown
Massive protests greeted Donald Trump upon his inauguration, but speaking out against the president will require a robust First Amendment. Will the American Left support it? Luke Wachob of the Center for Competitive Politics believes so.
By Luke Wachob
For eight years, left-leaning groups like Common Cause, Public Citizen, and the Brennan Center for Justice pressured President Obama to do something, anything about “money in politics.” Despite their pleas, he never took direct action.
They told him to stack the Federal Election Commission (FEC) with pro-regulation commissioners. Instead, he had just two confirmed nominations to the six-member FEC, and one was a Republican. They told him to issue an executive order forcing government contractors to report their donations to advocacy groups and nonprofits. He never did. They told him to prioritize legislation regulating speech by nonprofits, but when the bill died in the Senate, he did not fight to resurrect it.
Both the right and the left expected President Obama to do more to regulate the political process. Instead what emerged was a significant divide between the “reform” community and the Obama administration. That divide illustrates a reality the pro-regulation lobby would rather obscure-that even critics of the current campaign finance system cannot agree on a better alternative.
By Luke Wachob
Under the Obama administration, many Democrats were confident that regulating politics would serve their interests and promote fairness at the same time. Already suspicious that conservative groups played fast and loose with the rules, they imagined that the brunt of new rules would fall on groups like Americans for Prosperity or the National Rifle Association. They also had faith that public disclosure of support for advocacy groups would allow allies to expose and shame donors whose pocketbooks stood in the way of their vision of the common good.
After Election Day, the landscape looks vastly different. Allegations of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia failed to stop Trump’s rise, and failed to intimidate his supporters. Now, the laws that invade privacy to root out “dark money” could be used to make government lists of supporters of increased immigration, LGBT rights, abortion rights or criminal justice reform. And instead of going after groups like AFP or the NRA, liberals may worry about Trump targeting groups like Planned Parenthood or the Sierra Club.
As Republicans ascend to the White House, here’s hoping liberals return to their roots. If they were to join with conservatives, it’s possible they could make free speech great again.
By Luke Wachob
2016 was a surprising year in politics. One surprise that hasn’t received much attention yet is the minimal role played by “money in politics” in the presidential election. One of the best-funded candidates in history, Hillary Clinton, lost to an opponent who raised less than half of what she did. Not just that, but independent supporters of Clinton outspent those advocating for Trump nearly 3-to-1…
Deregulating campaign finance after the 2016 cycle should become less controversial. (Although the pro-regulation crowd and their media cheerleaders will no doubt work hard to prevent that.) Hillary Clinton’s massive fundraising operation showed that regulations don’t prevent prominent politicians from building a “war chest” to scare off challengers. Donald Trump’s victory, despite comparatively little spending, showed how public figures can leverage their celebrity to make campaign finance restrictions irrelevant. Meanwhile, new voices without the benefit of fame are stifled by the same laws supposedly preventing the wealthy from gaining political advantage.
What is left is to liberalize the system so that everyone – not just the Clintons and Trumps of the world – can thrive in politics.
Joan L. Larsen is a Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. She was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder in September 2015 before being elected to the same seat in 2016. We were unable to find any First Amendment cases of relevance that Justice Larsen has ruled on during her year and a half of service […]