Ohio Right to Life Preliminary Injunction ruling

A federal judge today granted a preliminary injunction request by The Ohio Right to Life Society, freeing the group to engage in issue advocacy close to this fall’s general election. 

The Ohio Right to Life , represented by attorneys from CCP and the law firm of Benesch Friedlander, Coplan and Aronoff, is challenging current state law that bars citizen organizations from using funds from their general treasury to run advertisements mentioning the name of a political candidate within 30 days of an election. 

The preliminary injunction decision frees Ohio Right to Life of these restrictions while the case is pending.

The court, however, ruled against Ohio Right to Life Society’s request for a preliminary injunction to bar the state from enforcing disclosure requirements that the group is challenging while the case is pending.

More after the jump.

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Using campaign finance law as an electoral sword

The American Leadership Project (ALP), an independent 527 organization once denounced by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign when the group touted issues associated with Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, returned last week with advertisements criticizing Senator John McCain’s energy positions.

The new ALP advertisements have been met with no apparent response from the Obama campaign despite being nearly identical in form to the advertisements ALP produced previously in the primary campaign.

"The campaign finance laws haven’t changed since the primary, just the apparent beneficiary of ALP’s speech" said Reid Cox, legal director at the Center for Competitive Politics and author of a memo analyzing ALP’s advocacy.  "The conclusion must be drawn that like too many election complaints the motivating factor determining whether or not to file a complaint is driven by pure politics and not out of a sense of civic duty."

Cox’s memo is the second in a series of analysis launched by the Center for Competitive Politics examining the legal and political issues surrounding the advocacy activities of independent groups in the 2008 election.

"If merely filing a complaint is all it takes to trigger a full-fledged government investigation, then that is quite a sword to wield at very little cost," Cox observed.  "The threat of such an investigation alone is enough to silence many citizens."

"Politics is a rough and tumble world, but political opponents should not deputize government investigative and enforcement authorities as volunteers ready and able to assist in securing victories at the ballot box," Cox concluded. 

CCP’s memo regarding the American Leadership Project and is available here.

Additional memos published as part of the Election 2008 Free Speech Project can be found here.

CCP also welcomes suggestions for additional analytical memos via email at


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Congratulations to David Primo

David Primo, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester and a member of CCP’s Board of Academic Advisors, has been awarded tenure.  In addition to outstanding work on campaign finance, David’s research has delved heavily into the mechanics of government budgeting and decisionmaking.  His book, Rules and Restraint: Government Spending and the Design of Institutions, has won rave reviews (if academic book reviews ever "rave") and won the 2008 Alan Rosenthal Prize from the American Political Science Association. For a bit more on David’s work, go below the fold.

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California Assembly Bill 583

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) advised Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that California Assembly Bill 583, which seeks to establish public financing of campaigns for the 2015 Secretary of State race, may be unconstitutional in a letter the educational group sent to the Governor this week.

"Last week a District Court judge in Arizona ruled unequivocally that so-called ‘matching funds’ provisions in public financing laws ‘violate the First Amendment,’" CCP president Sean Parnell said.  "This California proposal includes a matching funds provision, casting serious doubt as to the constitutionality of Assembly Bill 583."

Parnell also noted in the letter that the recent Supreme Court decision in Davis v. FEC makes clear that the government cannot use leveling the electoral playing field as a rationale to justify punishing some citizens for exercising their constitutional rights.  The U.S. Supreme Court also favorably cited in its Davis decision an earlier federal appeals court decision that struck down a Minnesota matching funds law, signaling that the High Court believes such enactments are unconstitutional.

"A thorough legal review of Assembly Bill 583 indicates that, if enacted, the law will be subject to court challenge," Parnell observed.  "Given California’s current budget crisis, the state assuredly must have better things to spend its money on than a doomed, protracted legal defense of a law designed to muzzle the First Amendment rights of citizens."

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Wisconsinite’s Right to Speak

Should Wisconsin citizens be able to join together to engage in issue advocacy free of government restrictions, even if that advocacy occurs close to an election and mentions the names of officeholders or candidates?

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board considered this question at its meeting last Thursday to consider its regulations on the ability of citizens groups to engage in issue advocacy.  CCP Vice President Stephen Hoersting was there to testify and CCP submitted written comments earlier in the process. But the GAB is being urged by proponents of strict campaign finance and speech regulations to tighten its current regulations regarding issue advocacy.

The debate centers on whether citizens groups should face greater regulation if they engage in so-called "electioneering communications." 

More after the jump.

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New Jersey Speaker nixes taxpayer-financed political campaigns

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr., responding to a federal court ruling in Arizona, effectively ended an effort to expand New Jersey’s "clean elections" program.

"Speaker Roberts made the right decision to end this expensive experiment," said Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which had published a legal memo questioning the constitutionality of matching fund provisions.  "So-called ‘rescue funds’ provisions in taxpayer-financed campaign programs penalize political speech, which the Arizona court recognized as an attack on core First Amendment rights."

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver ruled Friday, August 29, that a provision in Arizona’s clean elections law which allows "matching funds" to be distributed to candidates participating in the public-financing program if they are outspent by non-participating opponents or by independent groups was unconstitutional

Speaker Roberts responded to the Arizona ruling by declaring that "[i]n terms of enacting legislation to continue New Jersey’s Clean Elections pilot program in 2009, the federal courts have imposed obstacles that are insurmountable given the time frame."

"Taxpayer-financed campaigns have failed to live up to their promises in New Jersey, and so-called "rescue funds" penalize citizens and nonparticipating candidates," Parnell said. "Hopefully, Speaker Roberts will now be able to focus the Assembly’s attention on reforms that actually work and that don’t infringe on the First Amendment."



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Gathering dust

The Center for Competitive Politics released this week its third study on the impact that taxpayer-financed political campaigns have had in Arizona and Maine.  The results should be troubling for advocates of these political entitlement programs.

Supporters of so-called "clean elections" program claim that taxpayer-financed political campaigns are necessary to ensure a diverse legislature and one that is free of lobbyist and special interest influence. Unfortunately, for advocates of these welfare-for-politicians schemes, the claim is more rhetoric than reality.

More after the jump.

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“Clean Elections” Scrubbed in Alaska

Alaska, the site of numerous corruption scandals in the last two years involving the energy company VECO and extending all the way to the state’s long-time U.S. Senator, Ted Stevens, yesterday resoundingly defeated a proposal to implement a "clean elections" law to implement taxpayer funding of political campaigns.

Proponents of the law were well-funded, had the endorsements of all the state’s major newspapers and popular former governors Walter Hickel and Tony Knowles, support from the unions and the American Association of Retired Persons, and we expect when all is said and done, vastly outspent any opposition.  In fact, through August 16 Alaskans for Clean Elections had already spent over $140,000, while no organization at all existed in opposition to the measure.  Proponents attempted to parley the VECO scandals – which deal with allegations of outright bribery and laws already on the books – as a reason for placing more restrictions on private political participation and for hitting the taxpayer to pay for campaigns. 

It was, one might say, the "perfect storm" in which to pass a "clean elections" law.  Yet the voters saw through the malarky, and slammed the measure, 65-35.  Once again, the reform that dare not speak its name, that hides behind the misnomer "clean elections," proves not to be so popular in practice.  Congratulations to the voters of Alaska for preserving their tax dollars and their freedoms.

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Alaskans reject taxpayer-financed political campaigns

Continues trend of voters rejecting such proposals at the ballot box

Alaskan voters soundly rejected a proposal to enact a system of taxpayer-financed political campaigns in yesterday’s statewide primary.

"Alaskans spoke loud and clear, they do not want their tax dollars spent funding political campaigns and they do not want government in charge of political speech," said Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics and no relation to Alaska’s lieutenant governor.

With nearly 98 percent of precincts reporting, Ballot Measure 3 trails 35.44 percent to 64.56 percent.  The failed effort to bring publicly-financed campaigns to Alaska marks the second time in two years that proponents of government-financed elections have been resoundingly rebuffed at the ballot box.  In 2006, California voters rejected Proposition 89, which would have established a taxpayer-financed election system, 74.3 percent to 25.7 percent.

"Alaskans saw through the false promises of so-called "reformers" and recognized that recent political scandals in Alaska had little if anything to do with campaign contributions," Parnell observed. "Forcing taxpayers to pay for the campaigns of candidates they oppose was a backward step the Alaskans wisely rejected."

"These results should send a message to supporters of government-financed campaigns in other states," Parnell concluded.  "Voters do not want taxpayer-financed political campaigns."

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CCP chairman Brad Smith on TV

Center for Competitive Politics Chairman Bradley A. Smith should be featured in a Dan Rather Reports piece about convention fundraising set to air tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET on HDNet.

Check your local listing to see if HDNet is available in your area.

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