By Bradley Smith and Eric Wang
This latest allegation of foreign interference with our elections inevitably will be used as fodder to support the newest iteration of the so-called “Disclose Act.” Over the summer, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced a tweaked version of this perennial bill to include features he claimed would “head off foreign election interference.” Upon closer inspection, the legislation turns out to be an exercise in distraction rather than disclosure. The bill’s foreign spending provisions are poorly disguised ploys for clamping down on public debate and dissent…
Aside from its foreign national provisions, the latest Disclose Act also contains numerous purported disclosure requirements (hence its name). But those disclosure provisions are also ploys to shut down political speech. For example, the bill would require any corporation (even one that has no foreign owners at all) making a “campaign-related disbursement” to disclose all of its “beneficial owners,” a term which likely includes any shareholder…
Whitehouse’s latest Disclose Act also would expand the existing “electioneering communications” law to regulate ads that merely mention a congressional candidate or a member of Congress up for reelection beginning on the first day of an election year through Election Day.
By Bradley Smith and Eric Wang
By Michelle Casady
Trainor has previously represented conservative group Empower Texans, which has fought the Texas Ethics Commission on the disclosure of political donors.
But David Keating, president of the nonprofit group Center for Competitive Politics, an organization whose stated mission is to “promote and defend First Amendment rights” said there is a big difference between being a lawyer, paid to advocate for your client, and being a commissioner on the FEC. Naysayers may be conflating the two, he said.
Keating, who said he has met Trainor on a few occasions while in Austin testifying before the Texas Ethics Commission, said Trainer is “very knowledgeable” on election law.
“There are groups that don’t like him, so they’re trying to dig up what they can to make it controversial,” he said. “Trey clearly is someone who believes in free speech. I think he’s going to apply the law as it’s written and not come up with a hair-brained interpretation of what the law is.”
Keating said that although it is historically not common, senators have been able to block some “highly qualified” candidates for the post in the past, such as one put forward by Obama who had to withdraw his nomination, he said. He said he doesn’t think that will happen in Trainor’s case.
By Jordan S. Rubin
Though the justices are asked to decide whether the Fourth Amendment applies in Carpenter’s case, some of the outside briefs are concerned with another amendment: the First.
One of the First Amendment-focused briefs comes from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 19 media organizations. Another was filed by a diverse band of racial justice and economic freedom groups, led by the Center for Competitive Politics, an organization whose goal, according to its website, is “to promote and defend the First Amendment’s rights to freely speak, associate, assemble, publish, and petition the government.”…
The competitive politics brief’s concern is that, in “a world where tracking information is so precise that individual rooms can be differentiated, the locations of multiple people can be amalgamated, allowing the government to assemble an extraordinarily precise picture of citizens’ memberships, meetings, and associations.”
Thus, “the government’s warrantless access to this information threatens Americans’ First Amendment right ‘to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in so doing,'” they argue, quoting NAACP v. Alabama…
A ruling against Carpenter, then, could “discourage Americans from engaging in public gatherings and private meetings of all types, chilling both social and political association and the collective speech it fosters,” they conclude.
By Joe Albanese
It may shock you to learn that the multimillionaire co-founder of a global ice-cream empire has been meeting with elected officials in the hopes of fundamentally altering our Constitution. This individual proposes amending the Bill of Rights for the first time to give Congress nearly unlimited power to limit political speech.
That’s right – Big Ice Cream is trying to undermine our democracy. Or at least that’s how it would be put if the wealthy founder of some other, less progressive company tried the same tactics.
In late August, Ben Cohen – the “Ben” in Ben & Jerry’s – appeared at a Philadelphia rally hosted by American Promise, an organization that effectively wants to rewrite the First Amendment…
There is certainly nothing wrong with Cohen’s expressing his views on a political issue. In the past, he has argued that “corporations can serve the needs of society,” in keeping with the increasing demands of the left for progressive corporate activism. The problem is that Cohen’s campaign-finance platform would curtail for others the right that he so proudly exercises – namely, the ability to dedicate resources to causes he cares about.
NMPolitics.net: New Mexicans should be suspicious of secretary of state’s anti-privacy rulemaking (In the News)
By Bradley Smith and Paul Gessing
Doug Nickle’s recent column (“Campaign reporting proposal creates necessary, nation-leading disclosure in NM”) is an example of Orwellian doublespeak at its best…
Even as Nickle urges support for rules reducing citizen privacy, he avers that the organization he lobbies for, Take Back Our Republic, “believe[s] in the individual’s right to both privacy and free speech” and “[t]hat’s why we support New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s proposed rules and regulations.” When the stated purpose of rules is to reduce personal privacy, yet a person tells you he supports them because he believes in privacy, perhaps it is time to be suspicious.
Noting that supporters of privacy have argued that “transparency is for government; privacy is for people,” Nickle also claims, “We couldn’t agree more – which is why we point out that the privacy of any individual or group who gives within the legally prescribed threshold is fully protected; their personal information remains undisclosed.” In other words, your privacy is protected, but only until it crosses a “legally prescribed threshold,” at which point your information will be posted online by government order.
By Doug Brown
It’s now been more than three weeks since proponents and opponents of a voter-approved set of campaign finance reforms faced off in Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bloch’s courtroom on August 15, and days since the reforms kicked in September 1. Though those new restrictions are supposedly in effect, Bloch has yet to rule on whether the campaign contribution and expense caps violate the state constitution. Multnomah County, officials say, is now in a gray area of campaign finance law…
This summer, an attorney for the Center for Competitive Politics…sought to represent the conservative Taxpayers Association of Oregon in opposition to the measure. They were joined in opposition by the Portland Business Alliance, landlord lobby the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors, realtor Alan Mehrwein, and corporate advocacy group Associated Oregon Industry.
Ballot Access News: Libertarian Party Files Brief Attacking Federal Campaign Limit on Bequests (In the News)
By Richard Winger
On September 5, the Libertarian National Committee filed this 27-page brief in Libertarian National Committee v Federal Election Commission, U.S. District Court, D.C., 1:16cv-121. The issue is whether it is constitutional for the federal government to prevent the party from receiving a bequest of amounts greater than $33,900 in any one year…
This is the second such lawsuit. The first one, when Raymond Burrington died and left the party $217,734, took so long to adjudicate, the money had all been possessed by the party before it was over, so it was declared moot. This case was filed in 2016 and is likely to be quicker, because some of the issues were already settled in the first lawsuit.
This new case is stronger than the last one, because in late 2014, Congress passed a budget bill that said national political parties could receive contributions almost ten times higher, if the money was used for one of three purposes: legal, national convention expenses, or headquarters expenses. The party argues that if such big contributions are now legal if a party wants to use the money just for those purposes, then a general gift to such a party can’t possibly cause corruption.
Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle recently noted that “we live in fear of online mobs.”…
McArdle argues that the rise of the Internet and online mobs may require us to rethink “the hard, bright line that classical liberalism drew between state coercion and private versions.”
But what about when government coercion enables the actions of mobs? Such is the case with campaign finance law, in which the government requires individuals who donate to political campaigns to report the candidates they support, the amount of their donations, their addresses, and their employment information, and then publicizes that information…
Today, forced disclosure of political donations is used less to inform voters than to provide information to silence speakers through threats and shunning.
Perhaps it is time to rethink our attitude toward disclosure. At a minimum, we should substantially raise the thresholds at which public disclosure of donors becomes mandatory – currently $200 at the federal level, and much less in most states. We should certainly not expand forced disclosure beyond contributions to candidate campaigns – disclosure laws should not be broadened to encompass membership in and dues and contributions to trade and professional associations, nonprofit organizations, and think tanks.
By Editorial Board
Thanks to a provision of Proposition 73, an initiative approved by voters in 1988, local governments and the state of California can’t create public financing systems for political campaigns. (There’s an exception for charter cities. Six California charter cities, including San Francisco, have adopted limited public funding programs to match small campaign contributions.)
Last year, the state Legislature passed SB 1107, a measure from state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, to allow cities, counties and the state to provide public financing for campaigns…
Unfortunately, Judge Timothy Frawley, of the Sacramento Superior Court, just struck down the new law, arguing that it didn’t “further the purpose” of Proposition 73.
Allen has said he’ll urge Attorney General Xavier Becerra to pursue an appeal. He should do so.
But, ultimately, the final approval may need to come from the voters.
By Sarah Kleiner
Seizing on the specter of Russian election influence, they’ve ramped up their quixotic effort – with minimal effect – to blunt Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision that unleashed a torrent of special interest spending on U.S. elections.
In doing so, they’ve introduced two dozen bills related to money in politics…
Bradley A. Smith, a former Republican chairman of the FEC, said campaign finance deregulation, in general, makes sense.
Smith, founder and chairman of pro-deregulation nonprofit Center for Competitive Politics, sees many of the Democratic proposals on the table now as efforts to rig the system in their favor.
The FEC, for example, isn’t as divided as some people make it out to be; the vast majority of money raised and spent in U.S. elections is already disclosed; and government probably shouldn’t be in the business of financing campaigns, he said.
There’s strong reason to believe people such as Sens. Chuck Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse want reform because “they think it will stifle speech that opposes their agenda,” Smith said.