- May 4, 2011
If history teaches us one thing, it is that secret money spent to influence the election of candidates rarely improves the integrity of our democracy. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Supreme Court has shown very little tolerance for the argument that the First Amendment requires that campaign contributions and expenditures remain anonymous. Nevertheless, opponents of President Obama’s April 13th draft executive order, apparently lacking any objections to the order on its merits, have resorted to attacking its constitutionality. But in so arguing, they disregard the Supreme Court’s longstanding and consistent support for campaign finance disclosure both as a means to combat political corruption and to ensure a well-informed electorate.
- Apr 29, 2011
It was bad enough when Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) ended her long and brave tradition of supporting campaign finance reforms by voting against the DISCLOSE Act last year – a vote cast despite her strong condemnation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United to allow unlimited corporate and labor spending in federal elections. But now the Senator has taken to completely mischaracterizing that very same court decision in order to justify her opposition to a draft executive order from the President which would require the disclosure of political contributions and expenditures from corporations applying for or holding government contracts and their officers and directors.
- Apr 12, 2011
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in McComish v. Bennett, a challenge to the “triggered matching funds provisions” of Arizona’s successful state public financing program. Many have speculated as to the potential impact of the case: would an adverse ruling invalidate only the “triggers” of Arizona’s program or also imperil public financing more broadly?
- Mar 17, 2011
On March 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in McComish v. Bennett, a high-stakes campaign finance case in which the Court will assess the constitutionality of a public financing law for the first time in 35 years. The case deals with the “triggered matching funds provisions” of Arizona’s highly successful Clean Elections system, but it could affect similar public financing systems in numerous states and cities. Just a year after the controversial decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Court is once again poised to issue a ruling that could make it harder for ordinary citizens to compete with big money in our democracy.
- Mar 16, 2011
We all remember the children’s book series Where’s Waldo, right? If not, the premise is simple: the series challenges its readers to locate a bespectacled character wearing a signature candy cane-striped sweater. The only trick is that Waldo is quite the chameleon. Skilled in the art of camouflage (or perhaps in choosing his environment), Waldo antagonizes the hunter by gallivanting around in a world of similarly clad people and backdrops. And when the reader has filtered through all of the red herrings to finally locate him, she can expect another—often more difficult—search for Waldo on the next page. It instantly became a children’s bestseller, probably for its ability to keep primary schoolers preoccupied while their parents tended to other matters. Well it seems as though freshman Congressman David Schweiker’s campaign committee was particularly fond of the series as well. And perhaps three of the FEC’s six commissioners were especially good at it.
- Mar 4, 2011
For months, reporters have been writing about prospective presidential candidates raising and spending millions of dollars through a myriad of political organizationsother than presidential campaign committees (e.g., 527 organizations, state PACs, federal leadership PACs), focusing their activities in early presidential caucus/primary states, and accepting contributions in amounts that far exceed the federal candidate $2,500 contribution limit and from sources, namely corporations, that are prohibited from making contributions to federal political committees. Remarkably, until March 3, 2011, not a single major player had admitted they were even “testing the waters” for a presidential run.
- Jan 24, 2011
One year ago, Justice Kennedy wrote in Citizens United, on behalf of eight of the Court's nine Justices: "A campaign finance system that pairs corporate independent expenditures with effective disclosure has not existed before today." Nor, sadly, did it exist after that day.
- Jan 24, 2011
Last month it was reported that incoming Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), “paid a personal visit” to Tom Donohue, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “to thank him for the chamber's unsolicited support of his candidacy.” Apparently Senator Johnson – ironically the man who replaced Russ Feingold of McCain-Feingold fame – did not get the memo that all genuflecting before campaign funders should be cloaked as “policy discussions” and conducted behind closed doors.
- Jan 18, 2011
Usually the news that a Member of Congress is seeking $30 contributions would be received as good news – evidence that there is a role for average Americans in the multi-million dollar campaign game. But the recent debacle involving Members skipping their own swearing in and fundraising in the United States Capitol reflects horribly on the institution. The situation highlights the poisoned atmosphere in Washington where for all too many Members the never-ending campaign threatens to trump their constitutional role of legislating.