Corporate Governance Press Release/In the News/Blog

Iowa legislative leaders attempt to defy Supreme Court

A bill to regulate independent political speech raises serious constitutional concerns and poses policy and logistical problems, according to an analysis by the Center for Competitive Politics sent to Iowa legislative leaders.

“This legislation would not enshrine Iowa as a leader in good government, it would give Iowa the dubious distinction of being the first state to openly flout the Supreme Court by passing unconstitutional restrictions on independent political speech,” said Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics.

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court held that “[T]he First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints or to distinguish among different speakers.” The bill, Senate File 2354, which advanced out of the Iowa Senate’s State Government Committee on an 11-4 vote, would restrict the right of companies to speak out on candidates by micro-managing core political speech.

“The Supreme Court’s decision allowed for disclosure of independent expenditures,” Parnell said. “It did not permit states to throw up a regulatory gauntlet of overly-burdensome shareholder regulations to force companies to run through before they’re allowed to speak out on urgent political issues.”

“This legislation is not meant to protect citizens from harmless independent speech,” he said. “It is meant to stifle the speech of organizations who may oppose powerful incumbents and the politically connected.”

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CCP officials to testify at House panels Wednesday

Center for Competitive Politics officials will testify at two House hearings Wednesday examining the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

CCP president Sean Parnell will testify at Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee (Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties) hearing. CCP board member Allison Hayward, a professor of law at George Mason University, will testify at Wednesday’s House Administration Committee hearing. Hayward and CCP vice president and co-founder Steve Hoersting testified at Tuesday’s Senate Rules Committee hearing.

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Citizens United and corporate governance

Former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer has an interesting, if occasionally hyperbolic and certainly ideologically-driven, article over at Slate today. In what is something of a follow-on to his September article urging the Supreme Court to overturn the Austin decision in its forthcoming Citizens United ruling, Spitzer takes after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and urges state comptrollers and treasurers in charge of public pensions to try to reign in the political activities of the Chamber.

Writes Spitzer: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce…has been wrong on virtually every major public-policy issue of the past decade: financial deregulation, tax and fiscal policy, global warming and environmental enforcement, consumer protection, health care reform …

The chamber remains an unabashed voice for the libertarian worldview that caused the most catastrophic economic meltdown since the Great Depression… It is the chamber’s right to be wrong, and its right to argue its preposterous ideas aggressively…

The problem is, the chamber is doing all this with our money…”

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Citizens United and the crocodile tears for shareholder rights

Citizens United v. FEC is ultimately a pretty simple issue, and it’s pretty clear, when you cut through it all, that there are two camps: one camp wants more speech, and one camp wants to suppress speech. That latter camp is a tough sell. Thus the search for new reasons for speech suppression. One they’ve been trying to make a go of is shareholder rights. That has required some serious contortions by the regulatory lobby, but ultimately it, too, is a non-starter.

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