By Don Jenkins
A Washington judge’s $18 million penalty against the Grocery Manufacturers Association apparently far exceeds any fine ever issued in the U.S. for running afoul of campaign disclosure laws.
The judgment, likely to be appealed, is less than half the amount sought by Attorney General Bob Ferguson. But it towers above the record $3.8 million settlement in a case involving the Federal Elections Commission or the $1 million involving the California Fair Political Practices Commission. No previous Washington case had topped six figures.
California and Washington are the states most likely to impose large campaign fines based on their laws and enforcement history, said David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that opposes what it considers overly burdensome disclosure requirements.
“I don’t recall anything in that range,” he said. “It seems disproportionate.”
By Don Jenkins
By Matea Gold
A bipartisan group of congressional members and candidates is filing a federal suit Friday against the Federal Election Commission, seeking to force the agency to act on a complaint it brought against 10 super PACs in July.
The maneuver is part of a legal strategy aimed at rolling back SpeechNow.org v. FEC, the federal appellate court decision that led to the birth of super PACs, which can accept unlimited donations. Once the FEC takes up the complaint and dismisses it or deadlocks on it – as it is ultimately expected to do – the group plans to file a broader suit against the agency that it hopes will ultimately reach the Supreme Court…
“The lawsuit proposes a ridiculous theory and is a publicity stunt,” said David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, who launched the original SpeechNow case. He said the plaintiffs are seeking “to silence those who disagree with them.”
“It shows the real motivation of those behind the case,” Keating added. “They want government to limit speech.”
By Kenneth P. Doyle
Federal Election Commission disclosure requirements applied to political ads known as “electioneering communications” have been upheld by a three-judge federal court panel (Independence Institute v. FEC, D.D.C., No. 14-cv-1500, 11/3/16).
The special panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected a constitutional challenge to FEC disclosure requirements, which was brought by a Colorado-based nonprofit group called the Independence Institute…
The Independence Institute was represented in the case by attorney Allen Dickerson of the Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit that is critical of campaign finance regulations.
When asked during a court hearing in October about the type of ads the institute believed should be protected from disclosure requirements, Dickerson pointed only to the ad the group said it wanted to sponsor in Colorado in 2014. The ad referred to the position of Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet, both Colorado Democrats, on a federal sentencing bill. The ad was never aired.
By Learn Liberty (script prepared by CCP Chairman and Co-Founder Bradley A. Smith)
Does our right to freedom of speech also guarantee our right to be anonymous? When most people think of anonymity, they usually think of the internet, the trolls who dwell in the comments sections on articles or on Reddit, but the importance of anonymity in America goes back further than you might expect. Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and other political activists during the American Revolution used anonymous pen names while writing politically controversial books and essays. They concealed their identities to protect themselves from retaliation and ensure that readers judge their work based on the merits of their arguments, not their identity…
The first amendment protects speech and privacy regardless of whether the speech is culturally accepted or rejected. Every American has the right to privacy and anonymity. Without it, anyone with unpopular things to say would feel less safe saying those things.
The Federalist: Despite Investigations, Obama’s IRS Has Never Stopped Targeting Conservatives (In the News)
By Paul Jossey
Evidence suggests targeting will continue and indeed spread -even assuming the IRS henceforth uses objective criteria to approve tax-exempt applications.
It is important to note the structural factors that caused the scandal and assess the likelihood of recurrence. As Kimberly Strassel documents in “The Intimidation Game,” the Citizens United case fueled a cauldron of pressure on federal agencies having regulatory authority over political speech. The president, Senate Democrats including Chuck Schumer, Max Baucus, and Sheldon Whitehouse, and campaign finance reform groups blitzed the federal apparatus to stop uninvited political speech…
The IRS got the message and “fixed it.” Yet the same forces “up in arms” over Citizens United are still “screaming.”
By Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger
Did Citizens United hand the US electoral system to nefarious corporate interests and “dark money”? We ask former FEC chairman and free speech advocate Bradley Smith. His lucid explication makes even this murky realm of the law very clear.
By Jason Taylor
Amendment 2 would limit donations to statewide, legislative, and judicial offices to $2,600 per election and would cap contributions to political parties at $25,000.
Ryan Johnson with Missouri Alliance for Freedom contends the current arrangement, which allows for unlimited donations, is a central pillar of free speech…
Johnson with Missouri Alliance for Freedom contends large contributions don’t lead to outsize influence of those donors. He notes St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield has made such donations this year with little to show for it. “He spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 million this election cycle. And most of those results did not turn out the way he desired.” Johnson also points to a study by the Center for Competitive Politics which showed no relationship between contribution limits and states’ corruption rates. The Center for Competitive Politics claims its mission is “to promote and defend First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly, and petition.”
By Luke Wachob
The Founding Fathers knew a thing or two about freedom of speech. One, free speech is essential to a flourishing democracy. Two, it can only serve that vital role when speakers are free from retaliation…
With the internet, it’s easier than ever to access and weaponize information about someone’s views on controversial issues. Opinions in the mainstream today may seem radical decades later, but public records of your contributions will live online forever. In a country where civic engagement is on the decline – 2014 saw the lowest voter turnout in 70 years – the threat of an internet mob attacking you, your family, or your business is one more reason to stay silent.
Fortunately, we can roll back this culture of intimidation by taking a page from the Founding Fathers and the civil rights movement. They recognized that if supporters of causes could be bullied into silence, speech could not play its crucial role of challenging the establishment and driving social progress. Let’s vow not only to protect the First Amendment, but also to protect the privacy that keeps speech free.
Daily Caller: Dems Upset Over Leadership Decision To Withdraw Funds From Senate Race In Florida (In the News)
By Kerry Picket
Politico reported Tuesday evening that outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida donors became upset when New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and DSCC Chairman Montana Sen. Jon Tester decided that less-expensive advertising markets in North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana provided the party with an opportunity to take the majority from Republicans without exclusively putting all the money on a win in Florida…
The neck and neck race towards the finish line in the Sunshine State, according to political observers, means a push for media spending is a high priority.
“Florida is probably one of the biggest competitive states. There are a lot of media markets all over the state. It costs a lot money to run in Florida,” David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, told The Sentinel.
By Mona Charen
When Democrats speak of “dark money,” they are creating a bogeyman. Here’s what they’re referring to: When nonprofits like Planned Parenthood, trade associations or the NRA (i.e., groups that devote more than 50 percent of their activities to nonpolitical matters) spend money on political messaging, they do not have to disclose their donors (except funds earmarked for that particular ad).
As former FEC Chairman Brad Smith explains, this represents a small fraction of total campaign spending. In 2012, it was 4.3 percent. In 2016, it’s coming in at under 3 percent. We know how much they spend, because they must report it. We know what they represent, or in the case of a group like Americans for Prosperity, we can easily find out. And nothing in the Citizens United decision altered disclosure requirements…
Donald Trump again signaled his contempt for democratic norms by declining to say he’d respect the results of the election. But Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, who stoke mistrust by falsely spinning conspiracy theories of illegitimate, dark forces controlling our system are also to blame for the parlous state of social trust in America.