Well-connected businesses support big government think tank, news outlet reports

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.

Tax credits vs. vouchers

supporting-our-schoolMichael A. LaFerrara has an excellent post over at the Objectivist Standard about the distinction between school vouchers and tax credits and why the latter is ultimately superior if the goal is to achieve a world where education is totally 100% privatized without any state procurement of schools or funds.

Mr. LaFerrara’s framework consists of assessing every taxpayer’s education tax liability (ETL) that she pays to the state to fund schools, as well as assessing what is the average annual cost (AAC) for a student to attend a government school in a particular district. The plan calls for an “opt-in” mechanism (parents and taxpayers who do not wish to redeem their ETLs can continue to pay their taxes to the government schools unchanged) where parents and families can choose to redeem their ETB up to the amount of their child’s AAC and then use those monies to purchase an education from any private learning institution that the parents want. So, for example, a family with that has an ETB of $13,000 per year with a child that has an AAC of $10,000 can qualify for a credit up to that AAC amount.

If the private school that the family wanted to send its child to charged more than the AAC return, the family would have to find another way to come up with the cash to make up the difference. LaFerrera puts this restraint on the program and allows the government schools to consume the difference between the AAC credit and the private school cost because he believes that for such a policy to pass muster it has to throw them at least one bone or two.

I’m skeptical about some parts (like the the limit on the amount of contributions can receive from donors forfeiting their credits over to beneficiaries to the total AAC), and would like to more about whether his proposal calls for the abolition of state teacher accreditation as well as the repeal of all compulsory attendance laws, but all-in-all I think this is definitely a platform the the parental school choice movement should seriously consider adopting as model legislation.