Money in Politics

Campaign spending and contribution limits

The results of Tuesday’s primary elections illustrate that money doesn’t always buy voters’ love. If that’s the case, though—money doesn’t buy elections—why do we still have a very low $2,400 contribution limit at the federal level?

Filed Under: Blog, Money in Politics, Alaska, Arizona, Florida

MoveOn.org “reformers” mask legal requirement as virtue

Today I learned via e-mail that there will be a “rally” in Albany, New York to urge Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to “Fight Corporate Corruption of Washington” (curious italicization choices in the original). The message appears to be part of a nationwide campaign led by MoveOn (formerly MoveOn.org, of course) to push for a handful of campaign finance and ethics “reform” measures. Other organizations supporting today’s “rallies” (you’ll see why I’m using quotation marks around that term in just a second) include the Service Employees International Union, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, and Democracy for America.

The release breathlessly announces that “Over 100 folks have already signed up” (114 according to this MoveOn site) for the Albany, New York event today.

The site also reveals that there are 167 similar events across the country today, and typing in random zip codes from across the country would seem to indicate that attendance at most will amount to tens and tens of citizens. A handful of events have managed to make it past 100 in the number of people signed up to attend, but there are more with expected participants in single digits.

These numbers would seem to fall somewhat short of expectations for a rally that proclaims that it represents the 98 percent of Americans who aren’t corporations (I’m not sure exactly what they mean by that, but then neither do they I’d wager). Using the term “rally” to describe the 11 registered attendees for today’s event at 255 E. Temple Street in Los Angeles seems not quite right, though. Ditto for the three individuals scheduled to show up at Representative Joe Wilson’s office in West Columbia, South Carolina, and the seven hardy souls signed up to go to Senator Olympia Snowe’s office in Augusta, Maine also seems to not quite justify the “rally” designation.  Maybe “basketball team with a couple of subs” would be a better descriptor?

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Money in Politics, Maine

Campaign Finance ‘Reform’ and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Today was not a good day for advocates of so-called campaign finance “reform” and the DISCLOSE Act. In fact, it’s probably the worst day for “reformers” since the Citizens United decision came out back in January.

The day opened with word of a new special deal for a powerful organized interest group, this one designed to give the Sierra Club and possibly a few other groups the same exemption from the DISCLOSE Act that the NRA received this week.

For the “reformers” that actually believe that spending money in politics is corrupting and must be curtailed, whatever the source and agenda behind the money, it confirmed, after the ‘Shotgun Sellout,’ that their partners in “reform” were simply political opportunists, willing to cut whatever deal they needed to with any interest group necessary in order to hamstring their most significant opposition, the business community. This could not have been good news.

This was followed by the intended beneficiaries of today’s deal, which would lower the membership threshold to qualify for the NRA exemption to 500,000 from 1 million, rejected the deal: the Alliance for Justice, which yesterday sent a letter to Congress signed by several liberal-leaning interest groups opposing the deal (including the Sierra Club) over the NRA exemption, today sent a new letter reiterating their opposition:

…we must respectfully express our profound opposition to the effort to create an exemption from the disclosure requirements for large, powerful organizations, which, given the amendment’s language, in reality only applies to the National Rifle Association and a limited number of other organizations.

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Money in Politics, DISCLOSE, Disclose Act, Maine

Lies, Damned Lies and Reformers, Part II

…or, WWBD: What Would Bob Do?

In advance of Tuesday’s House Administration Committee hearing on the “DISCLOSE Act,” the Center for Competitive Politics submitted a written memo analyzing the disclosure provisions of the bill. CCP also posted and circulated a press release noting past comments on disclosure by White House Counsel Bob Bauer.

As the head of Perkins Coie’s political law practice, Bob Bauer was widely recognized as the top campaign finance and election lawyer for Democrats. He also has a long and undisputed record of tangling with self-styled reformers over their pet theories of how to regulate money in politics. That may be an inconvenient truth for the Obama administration as they push this outrageous legislation, but it’s true nonetheless.

In CCP’s memo, we cited a statement from a lengthy law review article Bauer published in 2007 detailing “The Purposes of Disclosure in an Expanded Regulatory System.” Our press release included six other instances on Bauer’s blog where he noted the costs or potential drawbacks of onerous disclosure regimes.

The majority staff of the House Administration Committee quickly prepared a detailed, two-page memo supposedly rebutting these claims. No word on if they coordinated with anyone at the White House… Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California asked Chairman Robert Brady of Pennsylvania for consent to place the document into the hearing record. The memo was unsigned and anonymous. The identity of the author engaging in this political attack was not disclosed, you might even say…

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog, Money in Politics, DISCLOSE, Disclose Act

SpeechNow.org v. FEC argument update

Lawyers for SpeechNow.org and the Federal Election Commission squared at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday morning, clashing over the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.

Lyle Denniston of SCOTUS Blog has a comprehensive analysis:

… the D.C. Circuit Court appeared on Wednesday to be leaning strongly toward giving even more freedom to campaign groups that are set up to operate independently of candidates and parties.  From the opening moment of the 65-minute hearing, most of the nine judges on the en banc Court treated the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission as the beginning, not the end, of expansion of those freedoms.  When an FEC lawyer tried to bring up, and rely on, older precedents, he was reminded repeatedly that those came before Citizens United.

Filed Under: Blog, Money in Politics

Perceptions of Corruption and Campaign Finance: When Public Opinion Determines Constitutional Law

In this article, authors Nathaniel Persily and Kelli Lammie, test the empirical assumptions about American public opinion found in the Supreme Court’s opinions in campaign finance jurisprudence. The area of campaign finance is a unique one in First Amendment law because the Court has allowed the mere perception of a problem (in this case, corruption) […]

Filed Under: Contributions & Limits, Faulty Assumptions, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Money in Politics, Research, Buckley v. Valeo, Confidence in Government, First Amendment, Kelly Lammie, McConnell v. FEC, money in politics, Nathaniel Persily, Public Corruption, Public Opinion Polling, Supreme Court, Contribution Limits, Faulty Assumptions, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Contributions & Limits, Faulty Assumptions, Jurisprudence & Litigation

A Simple Explanation for Why Campaign Expenditures are Increasing: the Government is Getting Bigger

In this paper, John R. Lott, Jr. explains that most of the recent increases in campaign spending for federal and state offices can be explained by higher government spending. This result holds for both federal and state legislative campaigns and for gubernatorial races as well as across many different specifications. The author also examines whether […]

Filed Under: Expenditure, External Relations Sub-Pages, Issues, Money in Politics, Research, money in politics, Expenditure, Expenditure