Appearances, Publications & Speeches
- Apr 14, 2014The problem isn’t that members of Congress travel too much. In fact, they probably should travel more. The issue is who pays for the travel.
The usual defense of privately financed travel is that it saves taxpayer money. Think again. As any experienced Washington hand can tell you, all of us pay. And pay, and pay again. The special interests that can afford to underwrite the trips get “face time” with members of Congress and their staff. This “face time” is golden and translates into valuable access-and-influence. This, in turn, translates into skewed public policies that too often favor those who pay for the travel.
That is the reason private interests forked over more than $3.7 million for free “educational opportunities” last year, a 10-year high. It is an effective lobbying tool.
- Mar 26, 2014
This past Sunday, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by one of their editors, Hilary Krieger, asking whether "a little corruption should matter to voters." She reported that D.C. incumbent mayoral candidate Vincent Gray has won her over, despite his ethical and campaign finance challenges. And she goes on to make the case that we may have tipped too far toward concern about ethical standards for public officials at the expense of good stewardship and the ability to "getting results in a fractious system."
- Mar 13, 2014
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision so radically changed the rules of our country’s political process that updating the 50-year-old IRS regulations governing 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations has jumped from long overdue to critically important. The announcement that the IRS would finally launch a rule-making to update those regulations is welcome news. While the initial IRS proposal clearly needs work, the Campaign Legal Center is actively participating in the regulatory process to significantly improve it. But the efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Ways and Means Chairman David Camp, R-Mich., are way off base when they attempt to paint the process as a partisan witch hunt.
- Feb 11, 2014
Controversy is swirling around a number of websites that have been set up by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in recent months. The websites have URLs and headlines that imply support for named Democratic candidates for Congress. The websites also have prominent “donate” buttons. But in less prominent text, the websites indicate opposition to the named candidates and any contributions made via the websites actually go to the NRCC.
- Jan 22, 2014
It has now been four years and two election cycles since the Supreme Court delivered its bombshell decision in the Citizens United case, and the damage to our democracy and to the public’s faith in its elected officials has been staggering. At a time when the Roberts court is poised to do even more damage in its forthcoming McCutcheon v. FEC decision – involving a challenge to the long-standing aggregate contribution limits – it’s worth reflecting on how we got here.
The most common – and understandable – complaint about the Supreme Court’s infamous 2010 Citizens United decision is that it treated corporations the same as individuals for purposes of campaign spending. As distressing as that is, there are other serious flaws in the decision that, until reversed, will continue to haunt and undermine our electoral process in the coming years.
- Jan 14, 2014
The growth of the Internet notwithstanding, television advertising continues to be the dominant means used during U.S. political campaigns to communicate with voters -- the "nuclear weapon" of campaigns as Obama advisor David Axelrod once described it.
- Dec 18, 2013
For television viewers living in the Northern Virginia suburbs this past fall, it was hard to miss one particular ad because it ran in a saturation rotation in the Washington D.C. media market hammering Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli. The ads run by Independence USA PAC attacked Cuccinelli on his stance on guns, accusing him of “voting against closing the gun show loophole,” “endangering our families” and “undermining law enforcement and calling Cuccinelli “too extreme for Virginia.” Notably, this ad had little, if any, rotation in downstate Virginia.
By its own admission, Independence USA PAC spent more than $1 million on ads to support the Democratic candidate – and eventual winner – Terry McAuliffe.
The IRS is Doing Its Job - Or More Accurately - Contemplating Doing Its Job After Years of Dereliction (The Wall Street Journal LTE)Dec 16, 2013
Bradley A. Smith ("The Latest IRS Power Grab," op-ed, Dec. 9) asks the question: "Why is the IRS regulating political activity at all?" He attributes IRS regulation to "Democratic politicians and progressive activists" when, in fact, the IRS has long limited the extent to which many types of tax-exempt entities can engage in electoral politics. The IRS is doing its job—or more accurately—contemplating doing its job after years of dereliction. Mr. Smith attributes "three myths" to the Campaign Legal Center, but it is he who's ginned up myths.
Regarding "Myth No. 1," the Legal Center knows that 501(c)(4)s aren't "charities" and does not refer to them as such. Indeed, the Legal Center itself is tax exempt as a 501(c)(3), the tax code section covering "charities," religious and educational organizations.
Poster Boy For Dysfunction: Redistricting and Citizens United in the Texas 27th (The Huffington Post)Nov 27, 2013
Texas' 27th Congressional District offers a perfect rebuttal to those trying to pretend that gerrymandering and big money did not play a huge role in the recent government shutdown and gridlock in Washington in general.
There is no doubt that our nation remains closely and starkly divided in our political views. Certainly "demographic sorting," partisan news outlets, and north/south and urban/rural divides are among the factors playing significant roles in the current polarized politics but redistricting and the flood of money unleashed by the Supreme Court's ill-advised Citizen United decision are key contributors to the dysfunction that has gripped Washington by the throat.
- Oct 15, 2013
At one point during the oral argument Tuesday in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, Justice Antonin Scalia remarked that he didn’t understand the legislation in question.
“This campaign finance law is so intricate that I can’t figure it out,” he said. “It might have been nice to have the, you know, the lower court tell me what the law is.”