Brad Smith

Trump’s Nomination Doesn’t Mean Libertarians’ Involvement in the GOP Has Been Misplaced

[Editor’s Note: This commentary by former Federal Election Commission Chairman, Center for Competitive Politics Chairman and Founder, and Capital University Josiah H. Blackmore/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law Bradley A. Smith is reprinted here with his permission.]

A libertarian professor friend of mine took the opportunity of Trump’s nomination to write on Facebook:

The fact that the GOP appears to be nominating Trump, and the fact that libertarian-leaning conservative intellectuals in the GOP are (rightly) frothing at the mouth the most about it, only provides more evidence for my long-standing view that libertarian intellectuals who thought their (our?) home was in the GOP were making a very risky “pact with the devil.”

He went on a bit but that gets the mood and core message of the piece.

My response, which I’ll reprint here with light edits, was this:

SCOTUS Agrees to Hear McCutcheon v. FEC: Free Speech Update

James Earle Fraser's statue The Authority of Law, which sits on the west side of the United States Supreme Court building, on the south side of the main entrance stairs.

Our friends at Outside the Beltway clipped a Washington Post story that sets up a new look at decades-old campaign finance law by the nation’s high court, just three years after their landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Washington’s paper of record reports:

The Supreme Court reentered the controversial field of campaign finance Tuesday, agreeing to consider a Republican challenge to decades-old limits on the total amount a person can contribute to candidates, political parties and political action committees.

It is the court’s first major campaign finance case since its 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in elections. By extension, the decision led to the creation of super PACs, whose multimillion-dollar donations transformed funding of the 2012 presidential contest.

Election Eve Meditation

Cross-posted from The Dangerous Servant.


I don’t like to make political endorsements and, on principle, I certainly don’t discuss my vote before an election (the protection a secret ballot offers me from harassment and intimidation only works if I keep my preference a secret). I was stunned to read in an email yesterday, “I had no idea high-information, intelligent undecided voters even existed!” You know, as if the choice between an underwhelming incumbent president, an underwhelming challenger, a list of names with no mathematical chance to win, and not voting at all is an easy one to make. If your only goal is to beat the incumbent, then your decision is easier than mine. I, however, don’t only want to beat the incumbent; I want to elect a president worthy of the exercise of one of my most sacred rights, the right to vote.

Another Benefit from Citizens United: Political Letters from Companies to Employees

FEC logo

Last Friday, former FEC commissioner and chairman of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Center for Competitive Politics Brad Smith published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Koch Industries*** sending its employees letters about the upcoming presidential and congressional elections, and left-wing hysteria over those letters. Smith does a great job demonstrating why these types of corporate communications are good for employees:

A report released this week by the Business Industry Political Action Committee (Bipac) found that employees ranked their employer’s website as the most credible source of political information on the Internet, more than media sites or parties and candidates. Over 75% of the more than 500 respondents from a variety of industries indicated that employer-provided information was useful in deciding how to vote, and over a quarter said it made them more likely to vote.

This comes on top of past Bipac research showing that 47% of employees said that employer-provided information had “somewhat” or “strongly” increased their awareness of how various policy proposals affected their employers.

It should come as no surprise that employees want to know how government policies will affect their employers, and by extension their jobs. One might even argue that business leaders have an obligation to share with employees credible, accurate information on how public policies might affect the company.

What You Probably Haven’t Heard About Citizens United

As the election is quickly approaching, TV viewers across the country will no longer be bombarded with non-stop ads from Super PACs and interest groups. And Wednesday would be a good time to have a discussion about the future of campaign finance.

In early 2008, a group called Citizens United sought to air commercials for their documentary that was highly critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton. This appeared to violate federal election rules that prohibited corporations and unions from broadcasting “electioneering communications” within 60 days of an election. Citizens United sued the Federal Election Commission and ultimately won a landmark Supreme Court case that expanded corporations’ right to political speech.

The issue of campaign finance is hotly contested. Many argue that Citizens United has opened up a floodgate of corporate spending that threatens to erode American democracy. They also argue that a corporations should not have the same rights as individuals.

In this video, Professor Brad Smith of Capital University explains why he believes the Supreme Court made the correct decision in Citizens United. He argues that restrictions on corporate speech violate our Constitutional right to free speech.

It’s a touchy subject, as people generally don’t concern themselves with defending the rights of well-financed organizations and corporations. But in a free society, citizens must be allowed to come together and present their argument. More speech is better than less speech.

Former FEC Chair Brad Smith on Why Libertarians Should Vote for Romney

Brad Smith

My friend who teaches at my alma mater’s law school, Professor Brad Smith, a libertarian, was the Federal Elections Chairman and is an outspoken advocate for free speech and smaller government.

So ,when I saw him post at Division of Labour blog as to why he is voting for Gov. Mitt Romney… “with entusiasim“… I had to share with our readers some of his reasoning:

3. Entitlements and Spending.

Beyond the possibility of repealing the massive entitlement of Obamacare if Romney is elected, Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, has been a congressional leader in attempting to reform entitlements. No, he is not the Randian that the Democrats wish to make him out to be, much as many libertarians wish he were. But let’s be clear. No politician is going to be elected President in the near future on a pledge to abolish the entitlement state.

The Romney/Ryan plan for entitlement reform is the closest thing we have to a meaningful first step at reform – indeed, it is meaningful reform. There may never come a time when a majority of Americans are prepared for more radical reform, let alone an end to entitlements. If this is the reform we can get, it is necessary and good, and consistent with libertarian values. If an end to entitlements is one’s goal, successful, incremental reforms are probably a necessary step toward reshaping Americans’ mindset.

Obama currently stands as the single biggest obstacle to any consideration of entitlement reform. Romney and Ryan have taken on the issue in as strong a manner as any presidential ticket since Barry Goldwater in 1964. Libertarian voters need to reward such politicians, not ignore them because their proposals are deemed insufficiently libertarian.

Are Super PACs Good for Democracy?

See Video

Learn Liberty: Is Money Speech?

See Video

Should you have to disclose your political contributions?

In a new video from Learn Liberty, Professor Brad Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), discusses a scenario where Congress passes a law, in order to ensure that parties weren’t being infiltrated by terrorists, that would require all Americans to disclose their political activity — call it, as he says, the “PATRIOT II Act.” . This information, says Smith, would be made available in an online database for all to see, including prospective employers and neighbors. You would no doubt say that this is an invasion of your privacy.

But it may surprise you to find out that such a law, though not under the pretenses outlined by Smith, already exists. The Federal Elections Campaign Act of 1974 allows the government to track campaign donations and spending, making it available online for anyone to see.

With the Citizens United decision a frequent target of President Barack Obama, who constantly lies about the impact of the case, and Democrats and the rise of so-called “super PACs,” the debate over campaign disclosure laws deserve more debate and discussion, as well as attention paid to privacy.

McCain Snared in His Own FEC Trap?

Senator McCain, campaign-finance-reformer extraordinaire, may be facing charges of FEC violations for going beyond the spending cap set when a candidate accepts matching funds. McCain used the promise of claiming the matching funds, in order to secure a 4 million dollar loan last December to bolster his flagging campaign fund-raising. But after his strong showing in the Super Tuesday primaries, he sent a letter to the FEC, stating that he was withdrawing from the program. The FEC still has not met to vote on the matter, so there’s a question as to whether McCain has been excused from the program or not.

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