Published Articles

The Hill: Congress should protect political speech by ignoring Disclose Act (In the News)

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.

Filed Under: Brad Smith, Eric Wang, In the News, Published Articles

Law360: Texan FEC Pick Unlikely To Be Derailed By Tweet Drama (In the News)

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.

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Quotes CCP

National Review: Is Big Ice Cream Trying to Hijack Our Democracy? (In the News)

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. 

Filed Under: In the News, Joe Albanese, Published Articles

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. 

Filed Under: Brad Smith, In the News, Published Articles

Washington Examiner: How government enables online outrage mobs (In the News)

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.

Filed Under: Brad Smith, In the News, Published Articles

CPI: Democrats say ‘Citizens United’ should die. Here’s why that won’t happen. (In the News)

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.

Filed Under: Brad Smith, In the News, Quotes CCP

Americans for Prosperity: Prosperity Podcast #75: Are Democracy Vouchers Good or Bad for Democracy? (In the News)

Should you be taxed to fund political campaigns? Seattle has experimented with so-called democracy vouchers, or tax financed campaigns, and the results haven’t been good. Property taxes on businesses and individuals in the Emerald City have been hiked by $3 million per year to finance these campaigns, and the money has almost all gone to incumbents. Other cities, including Washington, D.C., are considering joining Seattle in tax financed campaigns. Scott Blackburn, a senior research analyst at the Center for Competitive Politics, joins the podcast to explain why that’s a bad idea.

Filed Under: Broadcast, Video, Audio, In the News, Quotes CCP, Scott Blackburn

Daily Caller: The Swamp Drain, By The Numbers (In the News)

By Jack Crowe
There were 9,791 registered lobbyists at the end of June, the lowest number at any point since 2008, and special interest spending on lobbying reached its lowest point in the last decade in the second quarter of 2017, according to a Boston Globe review of the last decade of lobbying data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Trump administration’s legislative agenda has been marred by a failure to achieve a bipartisan coalition on major legislative priorities. The failure of GOP leadership to whip the necessary votes required for Obamacare repeal in early July likely serves as a signal to special interests that the legislative arena will remain resistant to major breakthroughs for the foreseeable future.
“There’s nothing happening,” Center for Competitive Politics President David Keating told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The fact that nothing is really happening, no legislation is really going anywhere, which means that no one feels the need to ramp up. The biggest bill that came down the pike was the health care bill and nothing came of it.”

Filed Under: David Keating, In the News, Quotes CCP

The Hill: Spending money in politics is part of our cherished freedom of speech (In the News)

By Joe Albanese
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) recently introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow politicians in Washington to limit money that can be spent on campaign speech, as well as give taxpayer dollars to politicians. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) has proposed a bill banning congressional candidates from receiving money from political action committees (PACs).
The latter is a particularly stunning attack on the free speech rights of groups of citizens, since PACs are highly regulated organizations that have been part of American elections since the 1940s and can give no more than $5,000 to a candidate. All they do is allow like-minded citizens to join together and pool their contributions in order to promote candidates or causes.
The proposals of these California Democrats would basically give powerful government bureaucrats the final word as to how much you are allowed to spend to express your opinions. Since controlling money means controlling speech, these efforts would greatly undermine the liberties of individuals and organizations alike.

Filed Under: In the News, Joe Albanese, Published Articles

Huffington Post: “Dark Money” Fell in 2016, but is that Good News? (In the News)

By Luke Wachob
The ability to support causes privately is probably less important to the wealthy than anyone else. People who give millions of dollars to political causes can afford the security they need to be safe from potential harassers. It is the rest of us who might have reason to worry about declaring our political affiliations next to our name, home address, and employer. Yet federal law says that information must be disclosed when a donor gives just $200 to a candidate, PAC, or party.
We should be glad that a small role remains for groups that are unable to comply with the burdens of campaign finance regulations. Forcing citizen groups to operate like PACs would only further alienate Americans from public policy. And in the era of Trump, the benefits of donor privacy are increasingly recognized by progressives.
Surely there are wealthy donors who contribute to nonprofits. But new disclosure rules would barely inconvenience them; they can and do spend most of their political money elsewhere. More importantly, advocacy nonprofits are the best avenue available for average Americans to associate privately in support of a cause without fear of harassment and intimidation. That side of the equation should not be ignored.

Filed Under: In the News, Luke Wachob, Published Articles