By Kenneth P. Doyle
The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a federal appeals court ruling that said Colorado’s campaign finance disclosure requirements could not apply to a group that raised and spent only $3,500 to influence a ballot initiative (Williams v. Coalition for Secular Government , U.S., No. 16-28, cert. denied 10/3/16).
The Supreme Court’s Oct. 3 action denying the state’s petition for review was “the final chapter for Colorado’s speech laws that buried grassroots groups in red tape,” Tyler Martinez, an attorney for the nonprofit Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), said. CCP, a critic of campaign finance regulation, represented the challenger of the Colorado disclosure law, a nonprofit group called the Coalition for Secular Government.
“When a few citizens want to voice an opinion, the government can’t subject them to burdensome disclosure rules designed for multimillion-dollar campaigns,” Martinez said.
Washington Post: How 10 mega-donors already helped pour a record $1.1 billion into super PACs (In the News)
By Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy
David Keating, the conservative activist who launched the federal appellate case that created super PACs, said he is not surprised by the size of the contributions flowing to the groups, which can accept unlimited amounts from both individuals and corporations.
And he noted that money is no guarantee of success, pointing out that former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s presidential bid fizzled, despite the backing of a well-funded super PAC.
“I think people have to keep in mind that it’s just speech, it’s just communications,” Keating said. “As we saw earlier in the year with Jeb Bush, spending money on speech doesn’t equal having a candidate you back win an election. You can talk to people, but you can’t make them agree with what you’re talking about. “
“The alternative,” he added, “is the government saying, ‘You can’t do this.’ That to me is a much scarier prospect.”
By Kenneth P. Doyle
Also criticizing the push for disclosure is the nonprofit Center for Competitive Politics, which views campaign finance regulation as an impediment to free speech.
“The CPA-Zicklin Index, and its supporters, are not concerned with good corporate practices,” said a blog post from CCP President Brad Smith, a former Republican FEC commissioner. “They support policies cleverly designed to suppress the speech of businesses.”…
“If the Center for Political Accountability and the Zicklin Center want to speak loudly in support of the policies they prefer, the Center for Competitive Politics fully supports their efforts,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, they’ve chosen to shut down debate by shaming companies into abstaining from supporting the causes they believe in. This shame game is bad for business, but much more importantly, it’s bad for the public who wants and deserves to hear from all sides in policy debates.”
Alexandria, VA – The Center for Competitive Politics released the following statement after the United States Supreme Court denied an appeal by the state of Colorado to hear Coalition for Secular Government (CSG) v. Williams. In the case, an appeals court ruled that Colorado’s ballot issue disclosure law violates the First Amendment for groups raising […]
By Debra J. Saunders
“It’s become a code word for everything you dislike about politics,” Bradley Smith, former Federal Election Commission chair and now chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, told me. The public has come to think that a reversal of Citizens United will end the supersize role of money, especially corporate money, in politics. They forget that the 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy denied the government’s authority to censor a political documentary. The conservative group Citizens United had produced an unflattering 90-minute film called, “Hillary: The Movie.” The FEC prohibited the film’s airing on pay-per-view stations to comply with the 2002 McCain-Feingold ban on “electioneering communications” funded by corporations or labor within 30 days of a presidential primary.
If the Big Bench were to overturn Citizens United, Smith added, the court likely will make it “impossible to air a documentary movie close to the election” – whether the filmmaker is Citizens United or Michael Moore – but would not cleanse politics of corporate funds.
By Paul Jacob
A year ago, the unethical Missouri Ethics Commission fined Ron Calzone $1,000 for not paying a silly $10 fee. To register as a lobbyist. They also ordered him to stop talking to state legislators until he complied.
Citizen Calzone didn’t register. He didn’t pay. And he didn’t shut up. On principle.
Instead, he contacted the Freedom Center of Missouri, co-founded by attorneys Dave and Jennifer Roland, and the Center for Competitive Politics, the national outfit that defends our rights to participate in our supposedly participatory and representative democratic republic.
On Monday, a judge ruled in Ron’s favor, tossing out the “ethics complaint” against him. On a technicality, actually. The complaint hadn’t been filed by a “natural person,” as the law requires, but by the attorney for the Missouri Society of Governmental Consultants, the state lobbyist guild.
Winning is better than losing, of course, but too bad the result did not better bring out and bolster the underlying issue: the critical ability of people to speak to public officials, to agitate, to support and oppose legislation without opening themselves up to government reprisal.