Monthly Archives: May 2004

Brad Smith: Person of Principle?

Back in this post, I linked to a New York Times story in which Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer was quoted as saying that FEC Chair Brad Smith “was acting out of principle, too” in failing to go along with new regulations of 527 organizations.
Today, Werthheimer has this letter to the editor in which he retracts his earlier statement: Smith’s vote “not a real act of principle but rather a failure to properly enforce the campaign finance laws he has sworn to uphold.”
In my view, Wertheimer had it right the first time and went too far the second time. The 527 issue, as readers of this blog know, raises complex statutory and constitutional questions. Brad Smith resolved the 527 issue against regulation, taking a respectable position on the issue that is certainly in line with his own ideology not to reach out and do more than the Supreme Court and Congress have required. It is the same position taken by other members of the FEC, and it is a position that put Smith, a Republican, at odds with the RNC and others.
Back when Smith was up for nomination to the FEC, I took a position against his nomination. I agreed with others that Smith is honest and a person of principle, but thought his ideological position should disqualify him from the job. (I believe we had a debate on the listserv over whether ideology should be relevant for nomination to the FEC.)
The Werheimer statement shows how personal and bitter the campaign finance debate has become in Washington. It should still be possible to take a position on a campaign finance issue contrary to others without having one’s personal integrity attacked.

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A judicially manageable standard for Texas redistricting?

Mitchell Berman offers an oped in today’s Los Angeles Times, Putting Fairness on the Map. A snippet: “This difference between the Texas and Pennsylvania gerrymanders serves up precisely what the Vieth case didn’t: a judicially manageable standard. The court should declare that mid-decade redistricting is unconstitutional when adopted by a single-party-dominated legislature, unless narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest.”
For reasons I gave yesterday, I don’t expect Justice Kennedy to bite.

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Penalty for Private Spending by Presidential Candidates During General Election

Following up on this post and particularly on Trevor Potter’s reply, a blog reader writes:

    Trevor says, “The FEC audits all publicly funded Presidential campaigns, and this issue has come up in those audits with some frequency, with a repayment of public funds required where such prepayment has occurred.”
    Am I all that wrong to interpret that as meaning that you can’t pre-“pay” the expenses, but for all practical purposes you can LOAN your campaign the money from the funds raised before the convention? After all, that’s what a loan is, money given to you when you need it, that you have to pay back later.
    It’s a question I’ve often wondered about: When the penalty for accepting an illegal donation is to return it, generally long after the urgent need for the money has passed, how’s that different from a loan? Do they require that you pay back extra, so that it’s at least not an interest free loan?

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Will Kerry Ask FEC for an Exception to the Rules on Fundraising?

See this Boston Globe report, which states: “One idea under consideration within the Kerry campaign is petitioning the FEC for permission to continue raising and spending private funds until Bush receives his federal allotment in early September, according to campaign spokesman Michael Meehan. The FEC has not indicated how it would rule on Kerry’s campaign spending options. But Republicans are almost certain to oppose a rules change in the midst of a campaign.” I’ll be interested to hear what the statutory basis would be for such an exception to the rule that prevents party nominees accepting public financing in the general election from soliciting or spending private funds for their own campaigns.

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