Center for Competitive Politics

Founded in 2005, the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) is a nonprofit policy organization whose mission is to “to promote and defend citizens’ First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly, and petition.” CCP describes itself as the only organization solely dedicated to protecting Americans rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Based in Alexandria, Virginia, the Center leads efforts on state and federal levels. CCP conducts original research, provides testimony, tracks state and federal legislation, maintains a blog, and supports litigation in pursuit of its goal of free and competitive elections.

In order to guarantee its independence, CCP accepts no government funding. Its support comes from “individuals and foundations, with small amounts coming from corporations.”

In pursuit of its free speech mission, the Center assists stakeholders across an unusually broad political spectrum. For example, its programs support separate litigation projects of Citizens United (a conservative organization) and EMILY’s List (an abortion rights group) against the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Opposing McCain-Feingold “Reform”

CCP strongly opposes “campaign finance reform” laws that it believes are restrictions on the rights of Americans to freely influence the political process. The organization’s position is that such laws are merely cover for opponents of free speech to hide behind, while imposing burdensome restrictions on Americans’ rights to express themselves politically.

The Center contests the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law of 2002, which restricts when groups can run advertisements during political campaigns and the amount of money groups and individuals can donate to candidates. CCP notes that it contributed original research to lawsuits challenging provisions of the McCain-Feingold law. The Supreme Court struck down components of the law in the cases of Wisconsin Right to Life v.FEC and Davis v. FEC.

Fighting the “Fairness Doctrine”

Some Congressional leaders have called for the reinstatement of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine.” This regulation, which was ended in 1987, allowed to Federal Communications Commission to require TV and radio shows to provide “equal time” to opposing viewpoints.

CCP President Sean Parnell is not a supporter of restoring the regulation, writing that “whether this is called the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ or some other euphemism like ‘content neutrality,’ ‘localism,’ or ‘broadcast diversity,’ this assault on the First Amendment still stinks.”

Litigating the First Amendment

CCP’s role in litigation is largely to prepare and submit legal briefs and to advise parties to cases.

CCP filed an amicus brief in the case of Citizens United v. FEC, on which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in September 2009. The Center has also filed amici in such cases as McComish v. Bennett, Sampson v. Buescher, and Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC.

Questioning “Clean” Elections

One CCP research focus has been on the effects—or lack thereof—of so-called “clean elections” in which political candidates can opt to receive strings-attached public funding for their campaigns.

After analyzing taxpayer-funded campaigns in Maine and Arizona, CCP President Sean Parnell discovered that election spending grew faster than the national average in these two states which provide public financing. Parnell concluded that there is no evidence public funding of campaigns lead to savings for taxpayers.

Further CCP reviews determined that “clean” elections in Arizona and Maine did not have an effect on the number of legislators with backgrounds outside of business and law, and did not reduce the influence of lobbyists. And another analysis concluded that campaign contribution limits did not have an effect on restraining corruption by elected officials.

Charting New Free Speech Territory

CCP believes online speech must be protected from intrusive campaign finance laws. It supported the Blogger Protection Act, a proposed law that would protect bloggers from certain campaign finance regulations.