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Anti-big-money-in-politics political group doesn’t get big money, may fold

Big contributions in politics, we are told, are bad for a variety of reasons and must be eliminated. Democracy 21, for example, says that their mission is to "…eliminate the undue influence of big money in American politics and to ensure the integrity and fairness of government decisions and elections."

So it was with some interest that I read about the troubles of the Clean Elections Institute (CEI), the Arizona organization focused on defending and promoting the Copper State’s scheme of taxpayer-funded political campaigns. Christian Palmer of the Arizona Capitol Times writes about the financial difficulties of CEI, reporting that

The Clean Elections Institute, a privately-funded interest group, is reportedly broke and has issued a call for contributions to help protect the state’s system of publicly-funded political campaigns.

To read more about this anti-big-money-in-politics political group’s own big money problems, click the headline above

Filed Under: Blog

New push for taxpayer-funded campaigns

Lawrence Lessig recently announced on The Huffington Post he intends to wage a new campaign of "combating corruption in Congress."

As Lessig sees the problem, renewed campaign finance restrictions are necessary to achieve larger ends. "…progress will be stifled on every big issue until we solve the threshold problem: big-money interests having disproportional clout in our public debates," he writes.

Never mind that Lessig, like most so-called reformers, just trots out buzz words like ‘big-money interests’ with absolutely no justification or context. Activists complaining about supposedly nefarious special interests often cannot see beyond their own hypocrisy on the issue. Congress is not a direct democracy. Organized interests, including the newly created Change Congress Lessig formed with Democratic activist Joe Trippi, are an essential part of our political system. Issue groups, unions, trade associations and other groups combine resources to advocate for policies they support in Congress. Each member of a teacher’s union or small business owner cannot spend her time in Washington, so they hire people to advocate for them or raise money for politicians that support their principles.

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Filed Under: Blog

The Lobbyists are Coming

In a recent post on his indispensible blog, Bob Bauer poked a bit at Newsweek columnist Robert Samuelson, who had written that big government gives birth to lobbying.  A thrust of Samuelson’s column was that we should expect to see a lot more lobbying in the next few years, given Barack Obama’s announced goals to greatly expand the role of the government into our lives, and in particularly to greatly increase government spending, beginning with an enormous porkbarrell spending er, stimulus bill. 

Bauer makes a legit point that not only does big government create lobbyists, but that sometimes lobbyists create big government. Bauer goes on to note that an administration that favors "ambitious goals" and "strong government" must be especially attentive to appropriate regulation of lobbyists, including adequate disclosure and avoidance of conflicts of interest. 

But we should not let Mr. Bauer’s legit point about particular lobbyists blind us to the bigger picture.  Click the headline for more.

Filed Under: Blog

Brad Smith and John Lott in Wall Street Journal on Some Downsides to Disclosure

CCP doesn’t take formal positions on legislation, but it’s no secret we’re generally in favor of political deregulation – indeed, that’s our reason for being.  One issue that has long vexed deregulationists is the question of disclosure of campaign contributions and other political activity.  Certainly disclosure has some benefits, at least in some cases.  But far too often disclosure is set forth, even by those generally favoring less government regulation of campaign finance, as an unalloyed good.  Today in the Wall Street Journal CCP Chairman Brad Smith and economist John Lott note some of the downsides to unmitigated disclsoure.  Click here to link to the full article, or on the headline above for excerpts.

Filed Under: Blog

Wall Stree Journal Praises “Yes on Term Limits v. Savage:” CCP Served as Co-Counsel

The Wall Street Journal today praises the 10th Circuit’s opinion in Yes on Term Limits v. Savage, striking down as unconstitutional an Oklahoma law limiting the political speech and association rights of non-resident petitioners, and urging Attorney General Drew Edmondson to drop his plans to appeal.  The case struck down an Oklahoma law that placed burdens on the rights of Oklahoma citizens to petition government for redress of grievances by limiting their ability to hire out of state workers to assist them in their efforts.  Such laws, in addition to damaging rights of speech and association, tend to lock in the status quo by making it harder for dissidents to gather the resources to seek change.  As the Journal notes, "Public officials claim residency laws are necessary to police the petition process, but these laws only serve to discourage its use." 

CCP, through Vice President Steve Hoersting, was proud to serve as co-counsel for the victorious appellants-plaintiffs in the case.  Read our Press Release here and the full opinion here.

Filed Under: Blog

A Bundle of Noise: The Overwrought Reaction to the FEC’s Bundling Rules

Pretty much like clockwork, if the FEC does something, it is criticized by so-called "reform" organizations for not being tough enough.  Such is the predictable response of the "reform" lobby to the FEC’s new rules on bundling.  But that response tells us more about the ultimate interests and Kafkaesque rules the reform lobby would like to t see in place than it does about the FEC’s rules or the ultimate interest of the public – such as it may be – in bundling regulation.  Click the headline to read more.

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog

How Connecticut’s “Pay to Play” Ban Wouldn’t Have Stopped Blagjevich

I was on Brad Davis’s radio show on WDRC in Connecticut this morning, discussing the recent decision by a federal District Court judge upholding their ban on contributions from lobbyists or state contractors. Doing a little research before the show, I ran across something interesting, and which just shows what a useless infringement on the First Amendment these so-called “pay to play” laws are.

The theory of “pay to play” bans is that elected officials will reward their campaign contributors with contracts. I’ve no doubt that this is true in some cases, but I doubt the practice is nearly as widespread as claimed by the campaign finance “reform” community. Usually, these laws are passed in response to some other scandal that the “pay to play” ban would not have affected if it had been in place.

For example, Connecticut passed it’s “pay to play” law after the corruption scandal of former governor John Rowland. Inconveniently for the “reformers,” Rowland wasn’t trading contracts for campaign cash, he was apparently getting free work done on his cottage by state contractors, among other goodies. No campaign contributions were involved, according to all the reports I’ve read.

Nevertheless, “reformers” were quick to seize on the scandal and propose a solution unrelated to the original scandal, banning contractors and lobbyists from enjoying the constitutionally protected right to support the candidate or cause of their choice.

Click the headline above to read how Connecticut’s “Pay to Play” law wouldn’t have stopped Governor Blagojevich

Filed Under: Blog, Connecticut

FEC passes draft bundling regulations

FEC commissioners passed draft  final rules on reporting bundling by lobbyists Thursday. Pro-regulation groups promptly went ballistic with outrage, as the FEC reasonably and narrowly interpreted the law, creating rules that apply to credit for bundling that is actually given in political fundraising.

The bundling rules implement provisions in the noble-sounding but ultimately misguided Honest Government and Open Leadership Act of 2007, which requires disclosure of contributions "bundled" by federally registered lobbyists over $15,000.

The supporters of the law designed it to take an incremental step toward anti-free speech restrictions on all bundled contributions. As a practical matter, this paper tiger bundle of regulations will have only a limited effect beyond adding another byzantine layer of regulations for lobbyists and campaign committees.

click on the headline above to read more

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

Recent appeals court decision upholds petition freedom in Oklahoma

CCP applauds the recent decision of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding petition freedom in Oklahoma. To read CCP’s release on the development, click here.

Filed Under: Blog, Oklahoma