The First Amendment broadly protects political speech and the use of resources (printing presses, the internet, money) to facilitate that speech. Yet when someone wants to engage in the most obvious kind of political speech — supporting election campaigns — the government is allowed to restrict this important constitutional right. In a new case coming to the Supreme Court, Shaun McCutcheon, a wealthy political donor, and the Republican National Committee contend that the limits on political donations are unconstitutionally low and not supported by a sufficient governmental interest.
Currently, an individual may contribute up to $2,500 per election to federal candidates, up to $30,800 per year to a national party committee, and up to $5,000 per year to any non-party political committee. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended most recently by McCain-Feingold in 2002, also imposes an overall limit on the aggregate amount one may contribute in a two-year period. For 2011-2012, an individual could contribute up to $46,200 to all federal candidates combined, and $70,800 to political action committees and political party committees—a total of $117,000.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that the Supreme Court has dealt with contribution limits. In the seminal 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo, the Court held that while contribution limits implicate fundamental First Amendment rights, such limits are justified if they’re closely tied to an important governmental interest, such as preventing quid pro quo corruption or the appearance thereof.
But the Court also decided that restrictions on campaign spending put a heavier burden on political expression, one which the government couldn’t justify. One of the plaintiffs’ arguments here is that the biennial contribution limits are simultaneously a limit on expenditures—a position which Cato elaborated in a new amicus brief.
We argue that Buckley’s distinction between contributions and expenditures, with limits on the former but not the latter being constitutional, is problematic. Not only does it allow infringements on the freedom of speech, but it has led to an unbalanced and unworkable campaign finance system.
Various justices over the years, some even in Buckley itself, have questioned the Court’s logic on this point. Justice Thomas in particular has assailed the distinction, pointing out that both contributions and expenditures implicate First Amendment values because they both support political debate. Moreover, candidates must spend an inordinate amount of time fundraising instead of legislating because they face an unlimited demand for campaign funds but a tapered supply. At the same time, money has been pushed away from politically accountable parties and candidates and towards unelected advocacy groups, leading to a warping of and decrease in political competition.
The special three-judge district court that first heard this case was legally bound to the framework the Supreme Court laid out in Buckley and restated that contribution limits are constitutional as such, dismissing the lawsuit. Still, Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote that “the constitutional line between political speech and political contributions grows increasingly difficult to discern.”
In a truly free society, people should be able to give whatever they want to whomever they choose, including candidates for public office. We urge the Supreme Court to strike down the biennial contribution limits and give those who contribute money to candidates and parties as much freedom as those who spend money independently to promote campaigns and causes.
The Supreme Court will hear argument in McCutcheon v. FEC this fall.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Four years ago, employees of New York-based Goldman Sachs Group gave three-fourths of their campaign donations to Democratic candidates and committees, including presidential nominee Barack Obama. This time, they’re showering 70 percent of their contributions on Republicans. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Four years ago, employees of New York-based Goldman gave three-fourths of their campaign donations to Democratic candidates and committees, including presidential nominee Barack Obama. This time, they’re showering 70 percent of their contributions on Republicans.
That’s the biggest switch among the 25 companies whose employees have given the most to candidates and parties since 1989, according to data through June 30 compiled by Bloomberg from the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign donations. Goldman isn’t alone; 13 of the companies’ employees are now giving more to Republicans after backing Democrats four years ago.
“A switch in party preference of this magnitude is virtually unheard of among major companies with an established presence in Washington,” said Rogan Kersh, provost at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Dallas-based AT&T Inc. (T) employees, who divided their contributions evenly between the parties in 2008, are now giving almost two-thirds of them to Republicans. Chairman Randall Stephenson gave $30,800 to the Republican National Committee in February — his biggest donation in more than two decades — six weeks after the Obama administration rejected a proposed merger with T-Mobile USA Inc.
“We don’t comment on personal contributions,” said Claudia Jones, AT&T’s spokeswoman.
Employees of General Electric Co. (GE) are giving 63 percent of their contributions to Republicans this year, almost a mirror image of their distribution in 2008 when Democrats received 66 percent of their donations.
“GE employees contribute personal funds to any candidate they choose,” said Lindsay Lorraine, a company spokeswoman.
Employees of just four of the top 25 companies, Time Warner Inc. (TWX), Pfizer Inc. (PFE), Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), continued to give a majority of their donations to Democrats. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft workers and their families are the biggest source of contributions to Obama’s re-election campaign, giving him $418,845. Philadelphia-based Comcast employees and their families are eighth, at $216,156, and Time Warner employees and families are 10th at $191,834.
The business bets are being made even as an Aug. 5 ABC News-Washington Post poll found Romney’s unfavorability rating ticked higher to 49 percent, with 40 holding a favorable view of him. Obama’s favorability rating stands at 53 percent, while 43 percent view him unfavorably.
Nowhere is the change in financial fortunes more pronounced than on Wall Street.
The banking industry, blamed for triggering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, opposed new regulations and oversight that a Democratic Congress enacted and Obama signed into law over Republican opposition. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, co- founder of the Boston-based private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC, has pledged to repeal the new rules.
Six of the 13 corporations whose employees reversed their political giving are financial institutions, including four of the top five. They are: Goldman, Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley (MS) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) The other two are Citigroup Inc. (C) and UBS AG. (UBSN)
Much of their money went to Romney’s presidential campaign and the joint fundraising committee set up with the Republican National Committee. Of the 10 companies whose employees gave the most money to Romney Victory, nine were Wall Street firms, according to a computer-assisted analysis by Bloomberg of Federal Election Commission data.
Goldman’s giving showcases the change in loyalties. The company’s employees gave $6.1 million in 2008, 75 percent to Democrats. The amount topped the 25 companies; the percentage trailed only Time Warner. This year, Goldman employees have given $4.9 million, also more than anyone else, with 70 percent going to Republicans. David Wells, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, declined to comment.
Romney “is one of their own, and Obama has been attacking the way they make money,” said Linda Fowler, a professor of government at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. “Throw in legislation to rein in the large banks, and it’s pretty clear that they would switch.”
Four years ago, 15 of the 25 companies, including all six financial institutions, saw a majority of their employees backing Democrats, especially Obama, during the 2008 elections. Then-UBS Americas Chairman Robert Wolf raised more than $500,000 for the Democratic nominee.
Heart v. Head
“Wall Street fell in love with Obama in 2008,” said Stephen Hess, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University in Washington. “It had more to do with the heart than the head. And love affairs, at least of the political variety, usually end in disappointment or disillusion. So Wall Street has now returned to its own reality — as well as one of its own.”
The top company source of funding for Obama in 2008 was Goldman, where employees gave him more than $1 million in campaign cash. JPMorgan and Citigroup employees were also in Obama’s top 10.
This time, Goldman employees are the biggest source of donations to Romney, giving $636,080. In fact, employees of financial firms account for eight of Romney’s top 10 sources of campaign cash. None are among Obama’s top 10 givers.
“Many of the biggest corporations are angry at the Obama administration and the Democrats for their new regulatory policies,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the Washington- based advocacy group Public Citizen, which supported those new laws. “This is ideological giving. These companies are investing heavily against Obama in 2012.”
The Goldman shift could be attributed to both the company’s opposition to the new banking law and its relationship with Romney, said Kersh.
“As Bain CEO, Romney hired Goldman bankers to underwrite Bain-managed IPOs, and Goldman investment managers supervise tens of millions of dollars of Romney’s personal wealth,” he said. “That type of close personal link to a particular industry or company has aided presidential candidates in the past and is paying off handsomely for Romney now.”
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:56 am
View full post on opinions.caduceusx.com
POLITICAL DONATIONS IN ALBERTA – 2004 TO 2010
Top 70 political donors in Alberta
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Mar 24, 2012 2:06 am
View full post on opinions.caduceusx.com
A scandal over improper political donations in Alberta has been brewing for months, and new details dug up by the opposition Wildrose Party are further evidence of a systemic problem. It is alleged that the governing Progressive Conservative party has been accepting donations, largely through fund-raising events, from government entities. And while most of the donations are relatively small, too many have come to light to be ignored.
One of the largest public donors brought to light by documents obtained by the Wildrose is the University of Lethbridge, which spent $15,000 between 2004 and 2007 on Tory dinners, golf tournaments and policy conferences. The Town of St. Paul, one of 10 municipalities under investigation by Elections Alberta, has reportedly donated $3,775 to PC constituency associations since 2005.
And it doesn’t stop there. The Calgary Zoo is denying it broke the law when it forked over $725 for entry into a golf tournament and the donation of an auction item at a Tory fundraiser. A spokesperson for the zoo said it had not broken the law because it is not wholly owned by the city. But it is at least partially owned by the City of Calgary and even if it didn’t technically break the law, having organizations that are owned and funded by government giving donations to political parties is certainly a conflict of interest.
As were the $4,700 in donations contributed by Calgary Laboratory Services, which is owned by Alberta Health Services, the province’s health superboard. PC association president Bill Smith admits the party “screwed up” and pledged to return the money.
Under provincial law, government agencies, as well as Crown corporations and their subsidiaries, are listed as “prohibited corporations,” which are banned from giving partisan political donations. Calgary Laboratory Services could face a fine of up to $10,000 if Elections Alberta substantiates the allegations. But this is of little comfort, as fining Crown corporations only serves to penalize the taxpayers for indiscretions perpetrated by their own government.
The real target of any penalties should be the political parties engaging in this kind of unscrupulous behaviour. But under Alberta law, the maximum fine the party can be subject to for accepting cash from prohibited corporations is $1,000. A clear case of the fox regulating the hen house.
If the Tories are going to pay any price for accepting goodies from the organizations tasked with administering their own welfare state, it will have to come at the ballot box. But, so far, the government has managed to weather the scandal without any serious backlash from voters.
A poll conducted by Leger Marketing from Jan. 13-18 for the Calgary Herald, found that only 34% of respondents were aware of the growing political scandal. Of those people, 37% said they still planned to vote Conservative and only 7% said they would reconsider whether they will support the party in the next election, expected in the spring.
Another poll, conducted on Jan. 17 for the National Post, found support for the Wildrose had risen to 29%, from 23% in December, while the PCs remained steady at 38%. Of course, Albertans are generally apathetic about their government — one of the reasons why the same party has been in power for the last 40 years. Dress a liberal in Tory blue and voters will show up in droves — a theory that will be proven true if Premier Alison Redford wins the next election.
But just as the sponsorship scandal was a wake-up call for Canadians, this should motivate Albertans to take the upcoming election seriously. Alberta may not change governments often, but when it does, it throws the old one out with authority. Although Albertans have a history of being complacent, they also value a government that leaves them alone. It’s hard too see how the people could remain indifferent with a Premier who seems to have a knack for telling others how to live their lives; a Premier who has done nothing to fix the province’s fiscal situation; and who is presiding over a government that has been plagued by scandal.
If the opposition parties can give the Tories a run for their money, perhaps the government will start working more for the people, and less for itself. If Albertans get angry enough to rid themselves of their one-party state, perhaps they will come to understand the best part of democracy: Our ability to kick the bastards out of office.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:19 pm
View full post on opinions.caduceusx.com