By Steve Terrell
In an opinion piece published by The New Mexican this week, Gessing and Bradley Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics and a former member of the Federal Election Commission, wrote, “Bureaucratic rule-makings can serve an important function. They help to implement and clarify laws that are passed by the Legislature. But here, instead of implementing the law, the Secretary of State’s Office is enacting rules that were rejected in the constitutional lawmaking process.”…
Toulouse Oliver’s proposed rule is based on a bill that passed the Legislature with bipartisan support this year but was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Martinez wrote in her veto message, “While I support efforts to make our 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. The requirements in this bill would likely discourage charities and other groups that are primarily non-political from advocating for their cause and could also discourage individuals from giving to charities.”
Santa Fe New Mexican: Rules combatting “dark money” in politics facing growing opposition (In the News)
By Steve Terrell
By Bradley A. Smith and Paul Gessing
Bureaucratic rule-makings can serve an important function. They help to implement and clarify laws that are passed by the Legislature. But here, instead of implementing the law, the Secretary of State’s Office is enacting rules that were rejected in the constitutional lawmaking process. Although pitched as “political disclosure,” as Martinez wrote in her veto message in April, “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.”…
Nonprofit speech about candidates allows voters to hear the varied perspectives of groups that do valuable work in our communities. For a variety of religious, civic and political reasons, many donors to these organizations do not want to have their names and home addresses published online for their boss and nosy neighbors to see. Rest assured, many groups will choose silence over exposing their supporters’ private information.
By Rachel del Guidice
“I’ve been contacted by dozens of constituents with concerns over their rights to privacy, and possible harassment by organizations or individuals, or even their employers, if their donation histories are made public,” Oklahoma state Rep. Mark Lepak, a Republican, told The Daily Signal in an email…
Two states known for their donor disclosure laws are California and New York.
Both states “require nonprofits to violate the privacy of their supporters,” Matt Nese, director of external relations at the Center for Competitive Politics, an organization dedicated to defending First Amendment rights, told The Daily Signal in an email.
However, Nese said it is difficult to know how widespread the push for donor disclosure is.
“It’s hard to quantify the exact number of states that have laws on the books requiring nonprofits to report the private information-names, home addresses, and, in some cases, occupations, and employers-of their supporters to the government for publication in a permanent, searchable, online database,” Nese said.
By Mark Pulliam
In her lengthy career as an elected official in California, Harris never hesitated to exercise her power-or silence her political opponents-when it was to her advantage.
For example, as California attorney general, Harris demanded that conservative-leaning nonprofits such as Americans for Prosperity and the Center for Competitive Politics file with her office unredacted donor lists-confidential information typically submitted only to the Internal Revenue Service-exposing supporters of such groups to the risk of disclosure and retaliation. Following Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich’s forced resignation in 2014 over a $1,000 contribution to the pro-traditional marriage Proposition 8 campaign, Harris’s position was calculated to chill the associational rights of conservative donors. “Outing” donors and exposing them to harassment and retaliation is, unfortunately, a common liberal tactic: in 2012, LGBT activists leaked the identity of donors to the National Organization for Marriage.
Featuring Luke Wachob and Caleb O. Brown
Luke Wachob of the Center for Competitive Politics argues that the misnomer of “dark money” is hardly the scourge it’s made out to be.
By Bradley Smith and Paul Gessing
This spring, the New Mexico Legislature considered imposing new donor disclosure rules on nonprofit organizations. The measure was vetoed by Governor Martinez over privacy concerns. Now Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver is attempting to impose those rules by bureaucratic fiat, using a regulation to enact what couldn’t be done through the normal lawmaking process.
Bureaucratic rules can serve an important function. They help to implement and clarify laws that are passed by the legislature.
But here, instead of implementing the law, the Secretary of State’s Office is enacting rules that were rejected in the constitutional lawmaking process. Although pitched as “political disclosure,” as Governor Martinez wrote in her veto message in April, “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.”
Furthermore, the rules, if adopted, will almost certainly be challenged in court…
Governor Martinez wisely chose to avoid this course of action for New Mexico. We should be cautious when considering proposals that restrict or chill charitable giving. We should especially not impose such policies through a subversion of the democratic process.
International Business Times: How Republicans Protect Anonymous Donors And Their ‘Dark Money’ Groups (In the News)
By Josh Keefe
Lawmakers in the current Congress have slipped language into two spending bills to protect so-called “dark money” nonprofits from IRS scrutiny. The provisions prevent the IRS from examining or defining the nebulous rules that govern those groups, which are not required to disclose their donors. Critics say those groups are taking advantage of a broken campaign finance system – and charge that Republicans in both Congress and the Federal Elections Commission are making sure the system doesn’t get fixed.
“Dark money” is a term used to describe spending by nonprofit “social welfare” organizations, usually 501(c)(4) organizations, which are named after the section of the tax code that created them. They are called “dark” because they don’t have to disclose their donors, due to a 1958 Supreme Court decision that ruled the NAACP didn’t have to disclose its donors to the state of Alabama…
Those who defend the practice on free speech grounds believe the term “dark money” is sensationalist, and argue that it accounts for less than five percent of total campaign spending.
A 501(c)(4) can engage in politics and still maintain its tax exempt status so long as politics is not its “primary activity.”
Imagine a special tax was levied on newspapers to fund vouchers that people could use to buy Fox News Channel subscriptions. Would that impact free-press rights?
The new lawsuit challenging Seattle’s “democracy vouchers” [“Suit challenges city vouchers for campaign contributions,” NWThursday, June 29] makes such hypotheticals worth pondering.
The article on the lawsuit claims that “Under the complaint’s rationale, virtually any public financing of campaigns that relies on tax revenue would be impermissible.”
But the lawsuit makes a more nuanced argument. The funding mechanism for this voucher program is unusual – a special property tax was levied to pay for it. The law does not allow that tax to be used for any other purpose.
The voucher law allows the program to be funded from general city funds. But that option is not being used. The lawsuit hasn’t challenged the use of general funds.
There are important First Amendment questions raised by the poorly drafted voucher law. Governments shouldn’t pass a special tax on a few to fund speech some oppose.
Hopefully, the court will agree.
WAMU D.C. Public Radio: Should Taxpayers Help Underwrite Political Campaigns? A Majority of D.C. Council Says Yes (In the News)
By Martin Austermuhle
Dozens of activists, former elected officials and current legislators spoke out Thursday on behalf of a D.C. bill that would create a system of public financing for local campaigns…
But while much of the hearing was an “Amen chorus,” as Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) quipped, Tyler Martinez from the Center for Competitive Politics sounded a note of dissent on whether public financing of campaigns works – and whether it’s worth it.
“These programs have failed to live up to their lofty expectations, while wasting precious taxpayer dollars, and forcing citizens to subsidize the candidacies of individuals with which they may disagree on many issues, including at times highly controversial candidates whom many, if not most, taxpayers oppose,” he said.
By Michael Thielen
Commissioner Weintraub has been championing brazen partisanship inside a federal agency bound by law and the legal scope and jurisdiction of the agency…
Former FEC Chairman Brad Smith wrote recently that Weintraub should resign immediately because her attacks against Trump and his White House Counsel Don McGahn are in danger of jeopardizing the real work and mission of the FEC.
“Weintraub has placed herself in a position where any participation by her in a matter involving the Trump campaign could jeopardize any agency finding against the campaign. . . . For some time now, Weintraub has apparently given up on the substantive work of the FEC in favor of pursuing her obsession with McGahn (who left the Commission nearly four years ago) and political grandstanding.”
Smith goes on from there to describe the often silly and unprofessional behavior Weintraub has exhibited in her crusade against Trump. Weintraub’s antics are embarrassing enough for a once-respected agency with a reputation for, if not pure impartiality, the ability to get the work done in spite of political differences.
Now, Weintraub threatens to make it nearly impossible for the FEC to remain impartial on any matter regarding President Trump.