It is disconcerting to discover that Brad Smith is disappointed in an earlier posting here. He holds strong views on political law issues but he expresses them clearly, expertly and with principled consistency: he rightly says that he has maintained an independent position against even the expectations, on some issues, of natural allies in the Republican Party. Now Brad expresses frustration that I misrepresented his tone and argument in an exchange with Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center over the IRS's proposed regulation of 501(c)(4) political activity.

The Opacity of “Transparency”

September 24, 2013
posted by Bob Bauer

Arguments about transparency have become hard to follow. Government can demand an accounting of money spent to influence politics or public policy; it can certainly compel disclosure of the paid, direct lobbying of legislators. But this is among the easier cases, after which there is disagreement—and confusion—about what the government has the power to do or members of the public have the right to resist.

David Keating and Senator Durbin had just such a difference of opinion. Durbin had asked the Center for Competitive Politics and other organizations (including the Cato Institute) to state for the record whether they had funded ALEC in 2013, and whether they had supported the organization’s “stand your ground” legislation. See, e.g., Letter from Senator Richard J. Durbin to John Allison, President and CEO of the Cato Institute (August 6, 2012). Keating disputed the request’s propriety. Letter from David Keating to Senator Richard J. Durbin (September 16, 2013). To his mind, the request was an act of intimidation and an abuse of office. Any association with ALEC was for political purposes, and Durbin, no friend of ALEC, was using official letterhead and a call for information to accomplish government intimidation of a political adversary.

Edmund Corsi from Ohio has strong views about politics and political candidates, and he makes them known through a website, and in other ways, in the name of the Geauga Constitutional Council. Corsi was called on to answer to the Ohio Elections Commission for failing to register a “political committee” under Ohio state law. Corsi lost there, and then in two appeals, and the Center for Competitive Politics has petitioned for writ of certiorari, challenging the basis upon which Ohio has applied its definition of a “political committee.” Ohio Rev. Code. Ann. § 3517.01(B)(8).