By Rebecca Beitsch
The high court ruled that corporations and unions are associations of U.S. citizens with a First Amendment right to political expression.
Hoping to take the decision a step further, proponents of bills under consideration in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington state would bar political spending by businesses in which non-U.S. citizens have a significant ownership stake…
But critics say having some foreign ties – especially minimal ones – should not disqualify corporations from participating in the political process.
“Corporations have a right to speak about politics. It’s a strange calculus that says we’re going to sacrifice the rights of the 95 percent American ownership for the 5 percent foreign ownership,” said Allen Dickerson with the Center for Competitive Politics, a First Amendment group that supports the Citizens United decision…
“How much of this is an attempt to prevent indirectly what we can’t do directly, which is prevent businesses from speaking? I understand there are people who don’t like Citizens United, but it’s the law,” Dickerson said.
By Rebecca Beitsch
By James Piereson
On February 27 the Supreme Court turned down an appeal in a case from Colorado that would have decided whether nonprofit organizations that run issue advertisements during election campaigns can be compelled to disclose the names and addresses of their donors…
In the Colorado case, the Independence Institute, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, proposed to run a series of “issue advertisements” during the 2014 Senate campaign urging the state’s two senators to support a federal bill to reform guidelines for criminal sentences. The proposed ads addressed only this narrow issue and did not endorse or oppose any candidate for election. Nevertheless, under the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act of 2002, the organization would have been required to make public its list of donors because the ads, though they were focused narrowly on issues, mentioned the name of a senator on the ballot within 60 days of the election…
According to the Center for Competitive Politics, more than 95 percent of all funds spent on election campaigns are subject to donor disclosure.
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.
By Bradley A. Smith
New Mexico law already has strong disclosure rules. Contributions to political candidates and parties are publicly disclosed. Additionally, “political committees” – anyone who spends over $500 “primarily for a political purpose” – already must file extensive paperwork that is placed on the internet by the state for anyone to see. Such groups must file a complicated series of reports, documenting every dollar spent and every contribution received. They must further list the names and home addresses of every contributor who gives over $500…
Unfortunately, Sen. Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and others in New Mexico have long been long pushing for even more disclosure. This disclosure would not be from candidates, parties, and political committees, but from a much broader array of civic organizations. Enter SB 96, a bill ushered through the Senate and currently before the House, that extends New Mexico’s disclosure rules to anyone who mentions a candidate in any ad near an election. This bill “fixes” campaign finance laws in the same way a law applying gun control regulations to Nerf weapons would “fix” gun laws.
By Brad Smith
Seven years after Citizens United, the whole “corporations aren’t people” and therefore shouldn’t have rights bit is getting pretty tiresome. Certainly, our elected officials should be held to a higher standard of debate.
Yes, it’s true that if you’ve never thought about it, the idea that “corporations are people” seems absurd on its face. Corporations are not people, of course. But, for many purposes, it makes perfect sense that the law treats them as such. For example, if the law did not treat corporations as people, they couldn’t be sued. The bigger point, though, is that corporations have rights because people have rights, and people form and own corporations. This is a principle as old as the American Republic, re-emphasized by the Supreme Court as early as 1819 in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward. A corporation, the Court noted, “is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.” But that didn’t mean that people gave up their rights when they formed a corporation. Rather, the decision emphasized that when people join together to accomplish things, they usually need some form of organization, and shouldn’t have to sacrifice their rights just because they organize.
By Luke Wachob
Bernie Sanders is demanding that Judge Gorsuch explain his “opposition to campaign finance reform.” Jeff Merkley is accusing conservatives of “packing the court” and threatening “the rights of ordinary citizens to have their voices heard in elections.” Sherrod Brown has already announced that he will vote against Gorsuch, saying, “I cannot support any nominee who does not recognize that corporations are not people.”
These attacks are beyond misleading. “Court-packing” brings to mind politically motivated efforts to increase the number of justices on a court, not the routine filling of a vacant seat. And so-called corporate personhood has been enshrined in law for centuries and is almost universally accepted by jurists. But there’s an even better reason to take these criticisms with a grain of salt.
These same senators voted in 2014 to amend the Constitution specifically because their idea of “campaign finance reform” could not exist under our current Constitution. In fact, 54 Democratic senators voted in favor of an amendment giving Congress nearly unlimited power to regulate political speech, effectively gutting the First Amendment.
California State Controller Betty T. Yee today announced her appointment of ethics and elections attorney Allison R. Hayward to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).
The FPPC is a five-member independent, nonpartisan commission responsible for administration of the state’s Political Reform Act, which regulates campaign financing, conflicts of interest, lobbying, and governmental ethics…
Hayward currently serves on the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics of the U.S. House of Representatives. Previously, she was vice president of policy at the Center for Competitive Politics, an assistant professor at George Mason University School of Law, and chief counsel to Commissioner Bradley A. Smith of the Federal Election Commission. Hayward has practiced election law in California and Washington, D.C., and she is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, as well as the American Law Institute. After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Danny J. Boggs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Filed Under: In the News
By Paul H. Jossey
In Washington, Ravel tried to remake the FEC into FCCP-East. A bureaucrat-dominated colossal that overreached, bullied, and pursued “social goals” in the name of democratic integrity. But Washington isn’t California…
Since 2007, the Supreme Court has deregulated much campaign finance on constitutional grounds. What remains are often hard cases where fundamental philosophical differences arise.
Those who file complaints to trigger FEC investigations have the right to appeal to lifetime-appointed judges in the event of 3-3 ties. If the commission dismisses a complaint, even by a tie, the judiciary can order the FEC to act on the case or provide an explanation acceptable to the court.
Strong democratic oversight also protects the system. If the political branches shared Ravel’s concerns, they could restructure the agency. Some in Congress do want the FPPC model. But their inability to garner requisite support is a matter of politics not agency dereliction. Put simply, people above Ravel’s rank don’t share her sky-is-falling view.
Washington Examiner: Soon-to-be former Democratic FEC chair tried to politicize the bipartisan commission (In the News)
By Bradley A. Smith
Commissioner Ravel came to Washington with a sincere desire to make the FEC a more effective, more efficient agency. Her plans, however, broke down in a combination of ideological overreach and a disdain for the hard work of democracy and governance.
Ravel ignored advice to focus her efforts on modest but meaningful goals that would have bipartisan support at the FEC, such as updating outdated regulations and improving reporting guidelines and mechanisms. Instead, she sought to implement a sweeping progressive campaign finance agenda that had not passed Congress: imposing controls on new media and pushing for unprecedented invasions of Americans’ political lives under the guise of “disclosure.”…
Ravel ends her stint on a disappointing note, with a flurry of media activity and the publication of a “report” prepared by her office offering tendentious descriptions of cases on which she lost votes at the FEC. As proof that the agency’s Republicans are violating their constitutional oaths to “enforce the law” she offers the mere fact that she could not muster a majority of the commission to agree with her.
Colorado Independent: US Supreme Court to Colorado think tank: Disclose your donors or don’t run these ads (In the News)
By Corey Hutchins
The outspoken think tank director said he saw the case as a good, clean test for the U.S. Supreme Court. So, with help from the Washington, D.C.-area Center for Competitive Politics- its motto: Campaign Freedom- up to the nation’s highest court the case went…
The High Court upheld the lower federal court ruling against the group Monday, without comment, essentially saying the lower court got it right.
“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to forgo full consideration of this important appeal, and instead summarily affirmed the lower court,” said Center for Competitive Politics legal director Allen Dickerson in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our efforts to defend the right to free speech and association.”
Dickerson told The Independent he still believes there is tension between the court’s blessing of laws that regulate advocacy for or against candidates and its rulings in favor of “privacy of association” in other contexts. The radio ads were not attack ads against a candidate, he says, but rather a discussion about pending legislation that merely mentioned an officeholder who happened to be running for reelection.