Are New Campaign Finance Regulations an Attack on Free Speech?

By Speckhardt, Roy | The Humanist, May-June 2004 | Go to article overview

Are New Campaign Finance Regulations an Attack on Free Speech?


Speckhardt, Roy, The Humanist


Recently there has been an uproar from liberal nonprofit organizations over possible new Federal Election Committee (FEC) rules that would regulate some organizations' efforts to air anti-Bush ads during this election year. The regulations are aimed at independent political committees--section 527 groups.

Republicans see this as a chance to shut off one source of Democratic campaign funds and thereby improve Republican chances for victory in November--and Democrats are aggressively challenging the proposed rules for the same reason.

Those in the campaign finance reform community see this as a rare opportunity to gain the cooperation of the party in power to bring about greater scrutiny and control of election money flow. If unchecked, the existing loophole would continue to give the wealthy a louder voice during the election cycle, and render our democratic process one where the average American is disregarded in favor of wealthy special interests.

Paradoxically, many progressive organizations which traditionally support small "d" democracy and campaign finance reform are asking the FEC to scrap or postpone the proposed rules. Humanist allies including People for the American Way, the Alliance for Justice, and the Sierra Club have all issued statements against the proposed rules. Potentially misleading alerts have circulated from these and other organizations that suggest the FEC is trying to ban all nonprofits from criticizing Bush and members of Congress.

Both sides of this debate agree that the primary target of these new rules is actually 527 organizations like the liberal MoveOn.org and the conservative Club for Growth, not 501(c)3s like the American Humanist Association and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

People for the American Way accurately defines a 527 as an

   organization that is allowed
   to collect unlimited contributions,
   without disclosing
   donors' names, to run "issue
   ad" campaigns during elections....
   527 groups do not
   have to disclose their identity
   or reveal their activities to
   the IRS or the FEC. Given the
   fact that contributions are
   unlimited, the spending by
   the 527 is far larger than that
   of the PAC [Political Action
   Committee], though specific
   finances are hard to trace.

Contributions to 527s, as opposed to 501(c)3s, are not tax deductible on account of their partisan nature.

The extent of the rules is where the debate starts. These 527s and their allies are saying that the rules will stifle free speech. Alliance for Justice legal council Tim Mooney said in a telephone interview that it "could even ban nonpartisan voter registration activities, and nonprofit research reports that happen to be critical of a candidate." He also suggested that if the FEC tightens the language to specifically exempt 501(c)3s (as they are expected to do), there will be another problem. By defining what 527s do as influencing elections it paints issue ads and other potentially nonpartisan activities as partisan, thereby laying the groundwork for similar rules that specifically limit 501(c)3s down the road.

But Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said in a telephone interview that such fears are unwarranted, and that "there's no proof of a slippery slope being created" The FEC's interest in specifically curbing 527s in order to protect the interests of the average voter is not intended to be a burden on 501(c)3s.

A close read of the FEC rules supports Nobles assertions. The bulk of the FEC rules apply only to "political committees," which they define as groups "the major purpose of which is the nomination or election of a candidate." (See the FEC document yourself at http://www.fec.gov/pdf/nprm/ political_comm_status/04-5290.pdf) Since 501(c)3 status involves an absolute prohibition on such activities, this automatically excludes organizations with that classification from the rule--assuming they are operating within existing law. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Are New Campaign Finance Regulations an Attack on Free Speech?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.