By Bradley A. Smith
As part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance “reform” of 2002, virtually everything these local parties do was brought into the web of federal regulation, and their sources of funding largely cut off. A poorly-reasoned Supreme Court decision, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, upheld these restrictions against a constitutional challenge in 2003. Cases decided since McConnell, however, have relied on traditional First Amendment reasoning to overturn many parts of that decision. One of the few parts that remains is the restrictions on state and local parties.
The Supreme Court now has a chance to rectify this element of the McConnell decision. Currently before the court is the case of Republican Party of Louisiana v. Federal Election Commission, which challenges those legal restrictions on state and local party activity. The party’s position is simple: Why can super PACs, or a nonprofit like Planned Parenthood Action Fund, accept and spend unlimited sums from any source to influence elections, while political parties cannot? And how can parties corrupt their own candidates by trying to help them win elections?
Washington Examiner: Is the Supreme Court about to give state and local political parties a boost? (In the News)
By Bradley A. Smith
By Brad Smith
The Watergate scandal that forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency showed the dangers of allowing one party to use the power of government against the other. In the aftermath, the Federal Election Commission was created to make sure future administrations could not abuse campaign regulations to bludgeon their opponents.
But today the FEC is under attack from members of Congress whose misguided proposal to “reform” the agency could take us back to the Watergate era. A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Renacci, an Ohio Republican, would shrink the agency from six commissioners to five…
Proponents justify this radical change by pointing to gridlock at the FEC. But in fact, the FEC usually reaches a majority vote except on controversial cases – The Center for Competitive Politics’ 2015 analysis found that 93 percent of FEC decisions were bipartisan. And not all gridlock is bad. A six-member commission with three votes on each side was designed to allow gridlock when the parties are in firm disagreement over whether campaign finance laws were violated.
By Renee Giachino
Bradley A. Smith, Chairman and Founder of the Center for Competitive Politics and Former FEC Chairman, discusses three significant victories for free speech rights that directly impact average Americans, including donor privacy and the elevation of Judge Gorsuch to Supreme Court Justice.
By Bradley Smith
In Holmes v. FEC, my organization, the Center for Competitive Politics, represents plaintiffs who are challenging the timing of contribution limits in federal races, but not the limits themselves. Federal law limits donors to contributing $2,700 to a candidate for the primary election, and another $2,700 for the general election. Many incumbents, however, do not face a primary challenger. They can raise $5,400 per donor and effectively spend it all on the general…
This is not fair to donors, it’s not fair to challengers, and it serves no anti-corruption purpose. As President Barack Obama’s former White House Counsel Bob Bauer writes, “donors do not potentially corrupt candidates in the primary, or the general, or a run-off: the corruption, if it occurs, is the result of the amounts given through the date that the candidate is elected to office.”…
It wouldn’t be hard to make the insensible sensible here. Contribution limits should be apportioned by election cycle, rather than split between the general and the primary. A win for the petitioners in Holmes would make the law simpler and fairer, and that’s something we should all get behind.
By Trip Jennings
The governor vetoed Senate Bill 96…
“While I support efforts to make political process more transparent, the broad language in the bill could lead to unintended consequences that would force groups like charities to disclose the names and addresses of their contributors in certain circumstances,” Martinez wrote in her veto message…
Critics of the legislation, however, celebrated Martinez’s decision to kill the legislation, saying it preserved contributors’ privacy when they donate money to nonprofits involved in the political process.
Bradley A. Smith, chairman of The Center for Competitive Politics, which touts itself as the country’s largest nonprofit defending First Amendment political speech rights, lauded Martinez for siding “with the First Amendment by vetoing this poorly written bill.”
“The purpose of disclosure laws is to allow people to monitor their government, not the other way around,” he said in a statement. “If this complex bill would have become law, only groups that could afford lawyers could safely speak out about elected officials. We should make it easy for groups of all sizes to exercise their free speech rights.”
By Trip Jennings
Senate Bill 96 would have required nonprofit groups that pay more than $1,000 for political advertising or campaigning to file a report with the Secretary of State’s Office detailing the expense and the organization’s donors. The bill would also have required that political advertisements include a disclaimer identifying the buyer…
In her veto message, Martinez echoed the concerns of critics who argued the bill would chill political advocacy, saddle nonprofit organizations with reporting requirements and drive donors away from some charities.
National groups on both sides of the issue lobbied on the bill to the end.
“The purpose of disclosure laws is to allow people to monitor their government, not the other way around,” said Bradley Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, a Virginia-based group that opposes transparency in campaign finance laws.
Daily Signal: Judge Warns 9th Circuit’s Use of Trump Campaign Pledge ‘Judicial Psychoanalysis’ (In the News)
By Fred Lucas
A federal judge is raising an alarm about “judicial psychoanalysis” resulting from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on President Donald Trump’s executive order…
Applying campaign statements when interpreting law “sows chaos,” said Judge Alex Kozinski, who has been on the 9th Circuit since 1985, in his dissent…
The 9th Circuit majority cited three Supreme Court cases displaying precedent that “evidence of purpose beyond the face of the challenged law” can be applied in interpreting the intent of a measure…
However, those cases pertained to deliberations in making the law rather than campaign promises, noted Bradley Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, a group that opposes restrictions on campaign speech.
“It’s definitely unusual for judges to use campaign statements to define whether an action is constitutional,” Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, told The Daily Signal. “I doubt it would chill campaign speech, but it is a dangerous path. This could be very selectively enforced for candidates that use shorthand or off-the-cuff remarks. Already political discourse is too scripted. If this becomes a precedent, it will mean no spontaneity and pure teleprompter.”
By Peter Overby
Peter Overby, Byline: Don McGahn was the lawyer for Trump’s presidential campaign committee. Like his boss, he takes a dim view of too much regulation. And like his boss, he isn’t shy about saying so. Consider this moment back in 2011, when McGahn was at the Federal Election Commission. He was arguing with another commissioner over the role of super PACs. Listen closely here.
(soundbite of archived recording)
Don McGahn: You don’t get to take matters in your own hands and take the book and just rip out the coordination rules, you know? And now my book’s complete because we don’t have the rules in there anymore.
Overby: And he tossed the ripped-out pages in the air. Brad Smith, head of the conservative Center for Competitive Politics, says McGahn worked hard to rein in FEC lawyers that he saw as overzealous.
Brad Smith: The vituperation he sometimes receives I think reflects the fact that he was very effective at, you know, what he sought to do, which was keeping the FEC within its constitutional and statutory role.
By Kenneth P. Doyle
Democrats supporting campaign finance regulation have stopped short, so far, of outright opposition to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, but key lawmakers said the burden of proof is on Gorsuch to show he won’t help extend the line of recent court decisions that rolled back limits on money in politics…
Republicans and groups critical of campaign regulation generally have supported the Gorsuch nomination. The Center for Competitive Politics, which says it is America’s “largest nonprofit defending First Amendment political speech rights,” applauded Trump’s selection of Gorsuch as a nominee for the Supreme Court.
The judge’s “opinions show an understanding that the role of a judge is not to enact his own preferences, but neither is it to rubber stamp the legislature,” said Bradley A. Smith, a former Republican commissioner on the FEC, who is chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics. “At a time when free speech often seems on the defensive, we are pleased that President Trump has nominated someone who will defend a robust First Amendment.”
By Bradley A. Smith
Last month a 2,500-word hit piece by Nancy Cook was published in Politico magazine with signs of Deep State intervention. Cook’s article explores McGahn’s tenure as a commissioner of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from 2008 to 2013…
Cook builds her case on anonymous comments from “a former FEC lawyer,” “former FEC official[s],” “longtime staffers,” “former FEC staffer[s],” and “former senior official[s].”The quotes and anecdotes that follow those titles constitute nearly all the article’s negative comments about McGahn’s tenure at the FEC…
Wherever these comments originate, the big clue that Cook and her anonymous sources are unserious is the nature of the attacks made on McGahn. He’s “a one-man wrecking crew,” “not going to be a truth-teller,” a “bomb-throwing enabler” – you get the picture. Yet conspicuously absent is any allegation that McGahn behaved unethically, failed to follow the law, or treated staff, investigative targets, or complainants unfairly. Rather, the sources offer the generic griping of people who did not agree with McGahn on policy and were frustrated by his success at the FEC.