Free Speech for People (VIDEO)

Sarah Kennedy’s latest video once again tackles the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case.

We’re already starting to see the unhealthy impacts on our democracy brought on by unlimited corporate campaign spending and non-disclosure of donors.

Never before in our nation’s history has the “Golden Rule” of elections been more dominant. “The guy with the most gold rules.”

That guy can certainly buy a bigger megaphone to get his message out — as Sarah’s video makes clear.

Is “Wild West” of campaign spending back before it ever left?

By Matthew Reichbach

Before campaign finance reforms were passed in 2009, the Wall Street Journal referred to New Mexico as the “political wild west.” In addition to a non-paid state legislature, no webcasting of legislative proceedings and no independent ethics board, the lack of campaign contribution limits was cited. Now, parts of the landmark contribution limit law that was passed in 2009, and which took effect the day after the 2010 elections, were put on hold by a district court judge.

U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson’s decision would allow state parties to receive unlimited donations from individuals or corporations. However, candidates themselves and organizations that coordinate with candidates would still only be allowed to receive donations of $5,000 per election from an individual or organization (with primaries counting as separate elections from the general elections).

The preliminary injunction went into effect immediately because the 2012 election cycle is already underway.

“Considering that the 2012 election cycle is in full swing and considering that the desired activities of Plaintiffs involve political free speech and association rights during an election year, this Preliminary Injunction shall remain in effect pending appeal unless stayed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Johnson wrote.

Citizens United lawyer James Bopp Jr. represented the State Republican Party in the lawsuit. As Clearly New Mexico reported at the time:

Joining the state Republican Party in the lawsuit are the county Republican Parties from Bernalillo and Dona Ana County, [State Sen. Rod] Adair [R-Roswell], Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque), former New Mexico Republican Party chair Harvey Yates, Santa Fe resident Howard James Bohlander, and Hobbs resident Mark Veteto. New Mexico Turn Around, a political committee with ties to the state Republican Party and the Rio Grande Foundation, and the New Mexicans for Economic Recovery PAC are also plaintiffs on the suit.

Johnson decided to allow the unlimited contributions because of the controversial, and unpopular, Citizens United Supreme Court decision which allows unlimited funds to be used in aid or against a candidate.

Johnson quoted the decision by the Supreme Court, written by Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Laws that burden political speech are” accordingly “subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.”

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Citizens United attorney seeks to overturn N.M. campaign finance reform

By Matthew Reichbach

On Friday, the Republican Party of New Mexico and its allies filed suit in federal court to invalidate the campaign contribution limits law passed by the legislature in 2009. The lawsuit cites the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision giving corporations the right to make unlimited campaign ads—often without disclosing the donors who funded the ads.

James Bopp Jr.

James Bopp Jr., the attorney who brought that Citizens United case, is representing the state GOP in this new lawsuit. Bopp is spearheading a national strategy to end campaign finance and disclosure laws.

Game Plan

In a recent New York Times story, Bopp described the strategy in this way: “We had a 10-year plan to take all this down… And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.”

According to Bloomberg, “Of 31 lawsuits challenging campaign finance regulations tracked by the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, Bopp filed 21, including a case that led to creation of independent groups that raise unlimited sums of money to run political ads.”

This was before the New Mexico lawsuit.

The New Mexico contribution limits law, which went into effect immediately after the 2010 elections, restricts individuals or entities from donating more than $2,300 to a non-statewide candidate in an election, or $5,000 to a statewide candidate, a political party or political action committee. Primaries and general elections are as treated as separate elections.

The law also bars political parties or PACs from donating more than $5,000 to an individual candidate in any given election.

Prior to passage of the law, New Mexico was one of the five remaining states that had resisted the imposing limits on campaign contributions.

A statement released by the state Republican Party expressed optimism that the suit will overturn the limits law. “We are confident that we will be successful in this case, as cases from around the country have found in favor of protection of freedom of speech, including a recent United States Supreme Court decision.”

If the New Mexico contribution limits should be struck down, what would the future campaign finance landscape look like? Recent actions by plaintiffs’ attorney Bopp may offer a clue to what he might be envisioning.

In May of this year, Bopp filed filed registration papers with the Federal Election Commission to form the Republican Super PAC Inc. Dubbed the “Super-Duper PAC” in a Mother Jones story, the PAC’s objective was to recruit candidates who would then be able to solicit unlimited funds for the Super-PAC — which could then spend money promoting that candidate.

The FEC quickly shot that idea down a month later in a unanimous ruling saying that while candidates may ask donors to give to the Super-PAC, they cannot ask for more than $5,000. One FEC commissioner called Bopp’s plan, “a bridge too far.”

But Bopp countered that the FEC’s ruling was “meaningless.”

If Bopp does succeed in bringing down New Mexico’s contribution limits law, it would certainly be an ironic fate for a reform that, when it was passed, garnered broad support from Republicans along with Democrats in the legislature.

Sponsored by Sen. Dede Feldman (D-Abq.) in 2009, it passed the state Senate on a 40-1 vote with only Sen. Rod Adair (R-Roswell), a plaintiff on the today’s suit, the only dissenting vote. The bill then breezed though the House on a 49-17 vote with 8 Republicans in support, including the soon to become Albuquerque Mayor, R.J. Berry.

Joining the state Republican Party in the lawsuit are the county Republican Parties from Bernalillo and Dona Ana County, Adair, Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque), former New Mexico Republican Party chair Harvey Yates, Santa Fe resident Howard James Bohlander, and Hobbs resident Mark Veteto. New Mexico Turn Around, a political committee with ties to the state Republican Party and the Rio Grande Foundation, and the New Mexicans for Economic Recovery PAC are also plaintiffs on the suit.

One lawmaker who  reacted quickly to news of the lawsuit was Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe). He tweeted, “Citizens United not enough? GOP lawsuit wants to take NM back to ‘wild west’ days where political parties have no campaign limits . . . Wow.”

Wirth might be referring to a January 2009 Wall Street Journal story that was much commented upon at the time the Feldman bill was being debated.  The story excoriated New Mexico for being one of just a handful of states with no campaign contribution limits. It was entitled, “New Mexico’s Political Wild West.”

 

Suck on this New Mexico, it’s Dick Morris of Citizens United on the phone!

“Please stay on the line for an important message from Dick Morris of Citizens United.”

That’s just part of what an untold number of New Mexicans heard in a campaign phone blitz this week.

By all accounts, the call was slickly produced and deployed.

The caller would ask for a specific person in the household. Let’s call her Mrs. Wellington. Once it was confirmed that Mrs. Wellington was indeed on the line, the caller would introduce himself:

“Hello, I’m Gil from Citizens United.”

Oh yes, this is the same Citizens United that won a recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision — Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission — which struck down much of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 law along with overturning Teddy Roosevelt era bans on corporate campaign contributions. By conferring on corporations the same rights as an individual (corporate personhood), the decision now allows them to open up their treasuries and completely buy up all television time, thus potentially drowning out drown out everyone else’s voices in political campaigns.

But let’s get to Gil on the phone with Mrs. Wellington. After a brief riff on how President Obama has “taken your health care away from you,” Gil asked Mrs. Wellington to stay on the line to hear an important message from “Dick Morris of Citizens United.”

Then a recording of the Fox News pollster/guru and noted toe sucking fetishist, Dick Morris, commenced.

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The Case for Campaign Contribution Limits: How Bob Perry bought a state Supreme Court

bob-perry1

As we’ve said before, the passage by the legislature of a campaign contribution limits bill – which now awaits Governor Richardson’s signature — was long past overdue.  New Mexico was one of only five states in the nation with no caps whatsoever. Texas is another.

Perhaps that’s why Bob Perry, the multi-millionaire Houston homebuilder, and his wife Doylene Perry have found New Mexico politics so hospitable.  In 2008, Bob wrote campaign checks to the New Mexico Republican Party totaling $240,000.  In the 2006 cycle, the Bob and Doylene dropped a total of $361,000 into the state — to the following beneficiaries:

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Pay to Play and Ethics Reform

Is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson just a high-profile scapegoat for the glaring need for ethics reform in New Mexico?

Take a look at this piece by Marjorie Childress at the New Mexico Independent, in which several well-respected political observers assert that “play for play” politics are rampant, especially in New Mexico, one of five states with no contribution limits. (Yup, Illinois is one of them.)

“There’s a lot of pressure that stems from the design of our government itself for people to give,” says UNM political scientist Lonna Atkeson. “Even if the politician doesn’t demand it, maybe people think it’s expected that they’ll contribute. What they receive may not be what they want. So are they actually buying access or something else? It can create the appearance of corruption even when it doesn’t exist.”

Adds New Mexico Common Cause executive director Steve Allen:

“The way it works is very subtle and, frankly, not illegal.”

The best way for New Mexicans to keep this from happening again is to make pay for play explicitly against the law, says Allen. Continue reading