Politico is reporting today that the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank founded by former Clinton Administration advisor John Podesta, has released its donor list to the public upon the announcement that Mr. Podesta is joining the Obama team to manage the president’s declining poll numbers.
Among some of the Center’s top donors, according to Politico, include big and influential corporations like Walmart, Goldman Sachs, General Electric, and war contractor Northrop Grumman. In addition, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which was a big and vocal supporter of Obamacare, also contributed funds to CAP.
The story is relevant because it comes at a time when many on the Progressive side of the political spectrum have been calling for increased regulation of political speech via contributions to candidate campaigns, political parties, PACs, and nonprofit organizations that advocate policy ideas.
Liberal ire has mainly been focused on wealthy individual contributors like the Koch brothers, as well as corporate donors like the fossil fuel industry and other business lobbies.
However, recent evidence like the Politico story and other reports, like the fact that vast majority of independent contributions this election cycle have gone to liberal and Democratic-leaning super PACs, have somewhat nullified the case that some Democrats and liberal activists make that the partial deregulation of political speech after the high-profile 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision has largely benefited conservative groups.
Having repeatedly failed to limit the political speech of their opponents through Congress and the courts, many anti-First Amendment activists on the left are turning to the regulatory bureaucracy to do what the constitutional branches of government will not.
This year, a team of left-wing lawyers have launched a campaign to bully the Security & Exchange Commission, agency chartered to protect investors and ill-equipped to handle important First Amendment issues, into instituting a rule that would force corporations that contribute to causes that these activists don’t like to automatically have to disclose all their donations to the public.
The official line of these activists has been that such a disclosure rule is necessary to “protect” shareholders from political activity by the corporation that they may not agree with. But the intentions of these activists may be more about political advantage than financial concern.
As the nonpartisan Center for Competitive Politics, a pro-free speech organization that advocates against the regulation of campaign finance, reports, by forcing their opposition to disclose their financial contributors, these left-wing activists can intimidate and extort them out of the political process by engineering boycotts and a smear campaign, so as to ensure that liberal groups remain unopposed in elections and policy fights.
What’s more, whenever such a proposal is made before shareholders meetings, the vast majority of them go down to defeat by large majorities, which discredits the argument that investors “demand” the kind of rules that SEC is considering.
Revelations like the CAP disclosure and the general leveling off of leftist attacks on “unregulated” political speech making it more and more clear that the Democrats, as well as their supporters, are taking advantage of the marginally liberalized political landscape of political contributing. However, campaigns like that of the SEC and other anti-competitive politics groups like Common Cause and Demos show that the the battle for the First Amendment is far from over.