On paper, McGahn, who is 48, wasn’t an obvious choice for White House counsel. He has never previously worked in a presidential administration, and he has all the attributes of the Washington elites whom Trump has denounced. (One attendee of McGahn’s 2010 wedding says it was like “a convention for election lawyers.”) Trump vowed to get big money out of politics, while McGahn has spent much of his legal career helping candidates and donors stretch the limits of campaign finance laws…
Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell cut a deal in the summer of 2008 to end the FEC’s impasse when they confirmed a slate of new commissioners, McGahn among them. From the beginning, McGahn made clear he felt no kinship with his new employer. “A lot of the staff said, ‘Welcome to the agency. It’s so nice to have you join us,'” recalls Eric Wang, an election lawyer who got to know McGahn while working for another Republican commissioner. “He made a point of saying, ‘I’m not joining you,'” making it clear that he was not there to collaborate with the career agency staff, but rather to serve as a check on them.
The Federalist: How Fake ‘Transparency’ Laws Fuel Mobs That Attack Private Citizens For Free Speech (In the News)
By Paul Jossey
A multi-million-dollar industry exists to convince (and force) Americans to accept political transparency as indispensable and privacy as dangerous. Disclosures have their place, but advocates of these policies-rarely targets themselves-ignore their price and limited place in the constitutional system.
In nonprofit advocacy, disclosure often enables harassment and intimidation for those whose stances clash with nation’s cultural elite. Historically, such disclosure also aimed to deter those who pushed for social change and civil rights…
Disclosure laws are supposed to monitor government, not private citizens. The public should know if a corporation, union, or wealthy individual with business before Senator X’s committee spends millions advocating his reelection. But the First Amendment protects nonprofit donors from public glare in part because they may take unpopular or controversial stances…
Two centuries ago, Tocqueville marveled at America’s organic, spontaneous civil society. Today more than one million groups thrive under our donor-protected system. Subjecting these donors to the harassment of today’s continual outrage machine serves no legitimate ends.
More Soft Money Hard Law: Investigating the “Structure” of Contribution Limits: “Elementary, Holmes” (In the News)
By Bob Bauer
The FEC will be defending the “structure” of the contribution limits this week in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The case, Holmes v. Federal Election Commission, tests the constitutionality of the “per election” limits as applied to a donor’s choice to participate only in the one-the general-election. If a donor skips a primary, and wishes only to contribute in the general, she now cannot give the full amount allowed for the election cycle cycle, $5400, but only half of that: $2700, the “per election” limit for the general. The Holmes plaintiffs’ point is that this bifurcation of the limits serves no legitimate anti-corruption purpose…
The problem presented by the bifurcation of the limits is worsened by the messiness of its application. Incumbents and other largely unopposed candidates do well under this system, collecting money for primaries they don’t have to compete in and transferring the money to their general election accounts…
Defending this arrangement just adds to the inefficiencies and cost of compliance with the “regular” campaign finance system, and to the reasons why candidates and parties flee from it.
By Alex Baiocco
The truth is, academic research demonstrates that existing campaign finance regulations do nothing to reduce perceptions of corruption or increase trust in government. More speech restrictions will equal more of the same.
Nor is there evidence that money “buys” electoral outcomes…
In other words, advocates of further regulating political speech are making demonstrably false claims that call into question the legitimacy of electoral outcomes.
When Donald Trump first claimed that the election was “rigged” as a candidate, critics were quick to suggest that making such a claim was a threat to democracy. Why? Because it called into question the legitimacy of our election results.
As president, Trump has continued to make similar claims…
Trump’s critics are right to call him out for making such serious allegations without providing any legitimate evidence. But the evidence that money buys elections is just as lacking as the evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire. Those same critics who call out Trump should also criticize the “reform” lobby with equal fervor.
Daily Signal: Judge Warns 9th Circuit’s Use of Trump Campaign Pledge ‘Judicial Psychoanalysis’ (In the News)
By Fred Lucas
A federal judge is raising an alarm about “judicial psychoanalysis” resulting from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on President Donald Trump’s executive order…
Applying campaign statements when interpreting law “sows chaos,” said Judge Alex Kozinski, who has been on the 9th Circuit since 1985, in his dissent…
The 9th Circuit majority cited three Supreme Court cases displaying precedent that “evidence of purpose beyond the face of the challenged law” can be applied in interpreting the intent of a measure…
However, those cases pertained to deliberations in making the law rather than campaign promises, noted Bradley Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, a group that opposes restrictions on campaign speech.
“It’s definitely unusual for judges to use campaign statements to define whether an action is constitutional,” Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, told The Daily Signal. “I doubt it would chill campaign speech, but it is a dangerous path. This could be very selectively enforced for candidates that use shorthand or off-the-cuff remarks. Already political discourse is too scripted. If this becomes a precedent, it will mean no spontaneity and pure teleprompter.”
By Peter Overby
Peter Overby, Byline: Don McGahn was the lawyer for Trump’s presidential campaign committee. Like his boss, he takes a dim view of too much regulation. And like his boss, he isn’t shy about saying so. Consider this moment back in 2011, when McGahn was at the Federal Election Commission. He was arguing with another commissioner over the role of super PACs. Listen closely here.
(soundbite of archived recording)
Don McGahn: You don’t get to take matters in your own hands and take the book and just rip out the coordination rules, you know? And now my book’s complete because we don’t have the rules in there anymore.
Overby: And he tossed the ripped-out pages in the air. Brad Smith, head of the conservative Center for Competitive Politics, says McGahn worked hard to rein in FEC lawyers that he saw as overzealous.
Brad Smith: The vituperation he sometimes receives I think reflects the fact that he was very effective at, you know, what he sought to do, which was keeping the FEC within its constitutional and statutory role.
Charleston Gazette-Mail: WV Senate Judiciary Committee eyes raising campaign funding limits (In the News)
By Jake Zuckerman
The committee reviewed Senate Bill 539, a lengthy measure that revises election finance laws down to the smallest nuts and bolts.
Counsel for the committee, Jennifer Greenlief, said the main things the bill does include increasing campaign contribution limits, increasing use of campaign funds and increasing allowances of individual expenditures…
The bill also raises the dollar amount that triggers donors’ disclosure of affiliations…
The committee heard testimony from several speakers. Speaking in favor of the bill, Deputy Secretary of State Steve Connolly said he and his department support the bill, saying it gives candidates more control over their campaigns and decreases their reliance on nondisclosed, outside money.
Also pushing the bill, Allen Dickerson, legal director of the Center for Competitive Politics, a Virginia group that advocates for the deregulation of campaign finance law, said the measure would bring the state up to federal guidelines.
During his testimony, he said he was invited by state Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, when asked.
By Alex Baiocco
With confirmation hearings for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch fast approaching, the specter of corporate influence is sure to emerge once again in the headlines. Predictably, several Democratic Senators have already begun their diatribe against “big money corporate interests” and a nominee who “does not recognize that corporations are not people.”…
Democratic politicians and organizations that support an anti-speech agenda continue to push the narrative that corporate speech rights give corporations the right to “buy elections and run our government.” This is preposterous.
Everyone recognizes that protecting freedom of speech is good and desirable. The fact that a group of citizens is operating a business should not disqualify them from First Amendment protections. No, corporations are not people. And no, money is not speech.
But corporations are comprised of people with rights. And if those people choose to exercise their First Amendment right to make a political statement, they will need to spend money to do so effectively. To say that the First Amendment does not apply to U.S. businesses is to say that the First Amendment does not apply to the people who form and operate them.
By David Keating & Luke Wachob
Democrats and progressives are losing their minds over President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. One left-wing advocacy group released a video titled “3 Reasons to Fear Judge Gorsuch.” Number one? According to them, if Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court, “our elections could be completely handed over to the powerful and the wealthy.”
That ludicrous statement refers to Gorsuch’s concurring opinion in Riddle v. Hickenlooper, a campaign finance case. Riddle challenged Colorado’s contribution limit law as discriminatory.
Was it ever! It allowed major party candidates to raise twice as much money as minor party candidates and independents. Progressives love to say “money isn’t speech,” but Riddle wasn’t about that. It was about equality…
Should progressives worry that Gorsuch may rule against them on campaign finance cases? Probably, given the type of restrictions they support on your free speech.
The silly Colorado law struck down by the court – they wrote it! Common Cause and like-minded groups seeking speech limits put it on the ballot. The goal? Getting money out of politics, of course.
By Kenneth P. Doyle
Democrats supporting campaign finance regulation have stopped short, so far, of outright opposition to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, but key lawmakers said the burden of proof is on Gorsuch to show he won’t help extend the line of recent court decisions that rolled back limits on money in politics…
Republicans and groups critical of campaign regulation generally have supported the Gorsuch nomination. The Center for Competitive Politics, which says it is America’s “largest nonprofit defending First Amendment political speech rights,” applauded Trump’s selection of Gorsuch as a nominee for the Supreme Court.
The judge’s “opinions show an understanding that the role of a judge is not to enact his own preferences, but neither is it to rubber stamp the legislature,” said Bradley A. Smith, a former Republican commissioner on the FEC, who is chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics. “At a time when free speech often seems on the defensive, we are pleased that President Trump has nominated someone who will defend a robust First Amendment.”