Blog

FEC Draft Opinion Would Silence SpeechNow.org, Independent Speech Groups

The Federal Election Commission today released a draft "advisory opinion" that would, if adopted, effectively silence SpeechNow.org, a new independent speech group that wishes to advocate for or against federal candidates on the basis of their support for free political speech.

The draft opinion asserts that SpeechNow.org and any similar groups must organize and register as "political committees" and may not accept contributions larger than $5,000 per person per calendar year.  The opinion would for the first time explicitly extend the full array of federal campaign finance regulations to groups of individual citizens acting independently of candidates and parties without corporate or union support.

"This opinion would leave practically no room for Americans to exercise our First Amendment rights to join together and speak freely to other Americans about who to elect to office," said David Keating, president of SpeechNow.org.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

First Amendment Politics

A funny thing happened in less than three weeks between the Iowa and Nevada caucuses that revealed the sad truth that First Amendment politics are more about gaining a competitive advantage than true concern about the freedom of political speech and association.

Union members in Iowa were told by the campaign manager of one of the leading Democratic candidates that advocacy being conducted by their organizations constitute a "loophole" in campaign finance law that was of an "underhanded nature" and "deserves further scrutiny."

Later, after earning major union endorsements in Nevada, the SAME candidate strongly defended the role of unions in the political process.

The candidate, speaking before the union about legal efforts to disrupt the Nevada caucus process, asked, "Are we going to let a bunch of lawyers try to prevent US from bringing about change in America?"

Of course, any close observer of campaign finance and election law could tell you that lawyers are always using campaign finance laws to try to gain an electoral advantage.

Click the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog

The Timely Demise of Unity08

Unity08 is on its deathbed.  The problem: "“We were caught in a peculiar catch-22; we wanted to break the dependence on big money by getting lots of small contributions from millions of members, but needed some up-front big money to help generate the millions of members to make the small contributions."

 The cause of death: the Federal Election Campaign Act.

 Ah yes, reforming politics is more difficult than it at first appears. Click the headline to read more.

Filed Under: Blog

Michigan primary law threatens press and association freedoms

As citizens of the state of Michigan made their way to the polls yesterday, Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and non-affiliated independents were all eligible to cast their votes in the state’s Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.  State rules allowed anyone to vote in the primaries and it was widely speculated  that the infusion of independents voters, coupled with the futility of voting in the Democratic primary, would have a dramatic impact on the GOP outcome .  Once inside a polling station, voters declared their party preference in writing, filled out the primary ballot of their choice, and returned home – content that they had fulfilled their democratic duty.  The state’s administration of the election should have ended there.  However, thanks to a new law passed by the state legislature, city and township employees will now be tasked with cataloguing each voter’s partisan voting preferences for the sole benefit of the Democratic and Republican parties. 

Click the headline for more 

Filed Under: Blog

Vermont: Campaign Finance Redux

CCP president Sean Parnell weighed in at the Vermont Tiger blog on a proposal in Vermont to revisit strict contribution limits. Parnell’s piece begins:

"Vermont political leaders have announced that a bill severely restricting the right of individuals to contribute to the campaigns of candidates whom they support is on the fast track in the legislature.

Before rushing through the bill, the legislature may want to slow down to consider the ramifications of their actions."

Click HERE for more.

Filed Under: Blog

If Jack Davis were Canadian…

Writing about Davis v. FEC over at Concurring Opinions, Frank Pasquale offers an interesting comparison between the ability to regulate political speech in the United States and in Canada.

The important, but unspoken, conclusion that can be drawn from the post is that opinions overruling "egalitarian" campaign finance models are NOT the result of a "misreading" of the First Amendment.  As such, supporters of the Millionaire’s Amendment will have a difficult road to tread.

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Millionaire’s Amendment

The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear a challenge to the so-called "Millionaire’s Amendment" provisions of federal campaign finance law.

The provisions, which increase contribution limits by at least 300 percent for candidates facing a self-financed opponent, are being challenged by Jack Davis, a former Democratic congressional candidate in New York’s 26th district.

In court filings, Davis argues that the Millionaire’s Amendment does not limit "the corrupting influence of campaign contributors" and instead, "serves to protect well-financed incumbents who wrote the statute."

"This case exposes and undermines the ‘corruption rationale’ used to justify most campaign finance laws," says Bradley A. Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, which will file an amicus brief in the case. 

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

A “special-interest mockery”?

A USA Today editorial on the stalemate over at the FEC says, "This couldn’t have happened at a worse time for those who care about clean elections – or a more opportune moment for groups seeking to flout the rules and turn the election into a special-interest mockery."

Really? A special-interest mockery? Perhaps, USA Today could clarify what issues advocated by these groups aren’t worthy of being discussed or represented in this year’s election?

More after the jump.

Filed Under: Blog

Another stab at restricting political speech in Vermont

Just 18 months removed from the Randall v. Sorrell decision overturning Vermont’s contribution limits and less than 6 months from failing to override a gubernatorial veto of a similar bill, the Vermont legislature appears intent on trying yet again to pass a campaign finance bill that imposes severe contribution limits.

Click the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog

The cost of regulated speech

In an opinion piece this morning, the LA Times takes on a recent NY Times editorial that demands a crackdown on independent political speech under the guise of "fair elections."

In his piece, the LA Times Michael McGough notes "a ‘fair’ election in this context means ones in which voters are shielded from the propaganda of special interest groups (but not, presumably, from the recommendations of the New York Times editorial board). I have previously described this as the "high doctrine" of campaign finance reform. It holds that the law should not just guard against bribery and corruption in the political process but should aim to "level the playing field" by reducing the advantages conferred on some candidates and citizens by the fact that they have more money than somebody else.

Click the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog