FEC, FCC and 2016

Broadcast stations made money hand-over-fist this year on political advertisements even though it was a non-presidential election year.   Spending on TV ads in federal and gubernatorial races topped $1 billion, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.  

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Democrats and Republicans Attempt Twitter End-Run Around Campaign Finance Laws

Last week, CNN and Huffington Post broke stories about the Republican and Democratic Parties using Twitter feeds to secretly communicate ad buy and polling information to outside groups prohibited from coordinating their spending with parties. The information tweeted by both parties seemingly required a decoder key to use it. The Democrats included the decoder on their Twitter bio, while the Republicans did not post the decoder key, which suggests that outside groups may have obtained the crucial information from a nonpublic source. Lawyers will now argue over whether these tweets violated campaign finance laws, but it’s critical not to ignore the larger and more important point. Federal “coordination” rules are broken in many respects and need to be fixed.

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Complex Campaign Finance Laws are Product of Loophole Seeking Players, Inactive FEC and Hostile Supreme Court

In a recent op-ed, Joe Trotter, Media Manager for the Center for Competitive Politics argues that a chart prepared by the Campaign Legal Center that broadly summarizes the disclosure requirements for political ads shows that the current campaign finance rules are too complex. This may come as a surprise to CCP, but we agree that the current laws have been made unnecessarily complicated, and also ineffective. We are also aware that any attempt to summarize the law in a readable chart requires oversimplifying some important distinctions. That is why the chart expressly states that it "is intended to provide a general summary of federal political advertising rules [and] ... does not capture all of the nuances and exceptions in the law. It should not be relied upon as legal advice for particular circumstances or situations." Thus, contrary to Mr. Trotter's suggestion, the chart was never intended to be a complete statement of the law.

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Vote Suppressors At It Again: A Response to Hans van Spakovsky

Every two years, in the run-up to national elections, the usual suspects begin to beat the drum about the supposed scourge of voter fraud. So it's hardly surprising that one of the most usual suspects of all, Hans von Spakovsky -- once denied confirmation to the Federal Election Commission because he had used his non-partisan position at the Justice Department to advance the interests of the Republican Party -- has penned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal praising states for enacting restrictive voting laws that prevent validly registered poor and minority voters from casting ballots.

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A 'People's Pledge' Could Quell The Politics in Judicial Elections

Imagine you win a big verdict at trial. But then, when the decision is appealed, you find out the judges who will be hearing your appeal took contributions for their campaigns from your opponents in the lawsuit — or that your opponents spent thousands or even millions of dollars on political advertising to elect those judges. Would you feel you were going to get a fair and impartial hearing in court?

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