Center for Competitive Politics

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The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) promotes the deregulation of U.S. elections, being against the McCain-Feingold act, the Disclose Act, the Fairness Doctrine, and being in favor of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to spend money to promote or oppose candidates in elections. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit which states on its website that its mission is "to educate the public on the actual effects of money in politics, and the results of a more free and competitive electoral process." The Center was founded in 2005 by Bradley A. Smith, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Stephen Hoersting, formerly Smith's Legal Counsel at the Election Commission, served as the Center's first Director. [1] [2] [3] [4]

(Smith was a Republican appointed to the FEC by President Clinton in 2000 as part of the statutory requirement no more than three of the FEC's six commissioners come from any one political party. His nomination was promoted by Republican Senators, but was opposed by Vice President Al Gore and others because Smith opposed campaign finance regulations and thus they considered him "unfit" to regulate those campaign finance practices.[5] He was confirmed as part of a package deal to secure the confirmation of other nominees. In 2004, Smith was elected Chairman of the FEC. (Unlike most federal agencies, the FEC Chairman is not designated by the President. Rather, by law each year the FEC Commissioners elect one of the six Commissioners to serve as Chairman for a one year term. By custom, the Chairmanship of the Agency rotates between Republicans and Democrats; by law, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman must be from different parties.))

The Center for Competitive Politics is an "associate" member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country.[6]


In August 2008, Jeanne Cummings of Politico wrote, 'Encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court, conservatives are launching a wholesale legal assault on campaign finance laws. And among the leaders is a man once charged with enforcing those laws: former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley Smith. His goals are big. He doesn't want to just scale back the laws; he wants to pretty much wipe them out.'

Bradley Smith 'opened the Center for Competitive Politics to build a case against the regulatory system that limits individual donations to candidates, reins in the role of outside groups, and bans union and corporate contributions to political parties. With financial support that came largely from individuals he declines to name, Smith opened the Center for Competitive Politics a year later to begin challenging the current campaign finance system in both federal court and the court of public opinion. "What the Center for Competitive Politics can do and is trying to do is to bring the right kind of cases before the court," Hasen said, so Chief Justice John Roberts and his new coalition of conservatives can "knock them out of the park."'[7]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

Former CCP President Sean Parnell served on the Public Safety and Elections Task Force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). At the 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting, he introduced the "Resolution in Support of Appropriate Disclosure Requirements" model policy for adoption by the Public Safety and Elections Task Force.[8] On July 20, 2011, Parnell published an article in The Daily Caller (conservative/Republican news organization founded by conservative reporter Tucker Carlson and former Dick Cheney aide Neil Patel) criticizing Common Cause for requesting that the Internal Revenue Service look into claims that ALEC, in violation of the laws governing 501(c)(3) organizations, has engaged in lobbying.[9] According to an August 2013 ALEC board document obtained by The Guardian, CCP terminated its ALEC membership on March 19, 2013 because the Justice Policy Project (JPP), which replaced the Public Safety and Elections Task Force at ALEC, "no longer works on issue."[10]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

Opposing the Disclose Act

The DISCLOSE Act would require corporations to publicly disclose contributions to organizations and trade associations that might make expenditures for campaign ads. The bill was introduced in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case allowing corporate spending in campaigns. Advocates of stricter campaign finance laws say that the public has a right to know exactly who is funding political ads.[11]

The Center for Competitive Politics and other groups including Americans for Tax Reform, The American Conservative Union,, and Citizens Against Government Waste argue that provisions in the DISCLOSE ACT go beyond disclosure to actually prohibit speech, and sent a letter to Congress calling the bill "an unequivocal ban on free speech, masquerading as an exercise in accountability."[12]


On its website, the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) states that it "relies on individual and foundation support. Less than 1.5% of our funding comes from corporate support."[13] However, the group does not identify its donors.

In its 2006 annual return to the Internal Revenue Service, the CCP states that it had total revenue of $373,571 with expenses of $284,118. It listed its 2005 income as having been $251,005.[14] It reported income of $820,851 in 2007 and $1,425,502 in 2008. [15]

For 2008, Media Matters lists the following funders:[16]

Lee Fang, writing at the blog "Think Progress," has claimed that Center is a "front group" of libertarian activist Howie Rich, which the Center has denied.[17] The Center for Competitive Politics, along with groups such as the Cato Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, worked in favor of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The groups filed amicus briefs to the Court.[18]


The CCP releases regular research studies on the role of money in US elections. This research has been criticized by groups such as the Brennan Center for Justice, which generally takes the opposite side from the CCP on questions of campaign finance and corporate speech. The Brennan Center argues that the CCP's research is plagued by methodological flaws and inappropriate conclusions drawn from undisclosed data points.[19] CCP's original research reports, as well as copies of legal briefs, legislative testimony, and commentary published by the organization, are available through the organization's website.


On its website the CCP lists its staff, as of May 2010, as being[20]:

Board of Academic Advisors

  • Stephen Ansolabehere, Professor of Government & Political Science, Harvard University
  • Lillian R. BeVier, John S. Shannon Distinguished Professor of Law University of Virginia School of Law
  • Bruce E. Cain, Professor of Government, Stanford University
  • John Coleman, Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin
  • Richard Esenberg, Adjunct Professor of Law, Marquette University, and President, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty
  • Joel M. Gora, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Brooklyn Law School
  • Jay Goodliffe, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brigham Young University
  • Jeffrey Milyo, Frederick A. Middlebush Professor of Social Sciences, University of Missouri
  • Michael C. Munger, Chairman, Department of Political Science, Duke University
  • David M. Primo, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Rochester
  • Larry J. Sabato, Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Political Science, University of Virginia, and Director, UVA Center for Politics
  • John Samples, Director, Center for Representative Government, Cato Institute
  • Herbert E. Alexander, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California; Director, Citizens Research Foundation. (In memoriam).

Contact Details

124 S. West Street, Suite 201
Alexandria, VA 22314
Tel: (703) 894-6800
Fax: (703) 894-6811

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Articles


  1. Center for Competitive Politics, "About Center for Competitive Politics", Center for Competitive Politics website, accessed February 2009.
  2. Mark Arsenault, "Congress trying to ease campaign finance rules", The Boston Globe, May 24, 2010.
  3. Susan Crabtree, "Sen. Kerry backs changing Constitution to deal with Supreme Court decision", The Hill, February 2, 2010.
  4. Robert Barnes, "Roberts Court rulings on campaign finance reveal shifting makeup, forceful role", Washington Post/Democracy 21, October 29, 2010.
  6. State Policy Network, Directory, State Policy Network, 2016.
  7. Jeanne Cummings, "Conservatives plot on campaign finance", Politico, August 12, 2008.
  8. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Public Safety and Elections Task Force Meeting," agenda and meeting materials, August 4, 2011, on file with CMD
  9. Sean Parnell, Common Cause’s selective outrage, The Daily Caller, July 20, 2011
  10. American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC 40th Anniversary Annual Meeting Board Meeting packet, organizational documents, August 6, 2013, released by The Guardian December 3, 2013.
  11. Susan Crabtree, "Supreme Court won't hear challenge on campaign disclosure", The Campaign Legal Center, November 1, 2010.
  12. David A. Patten, "GOP Makes Last-Minute Bid to Derail 'Disclose' Act",, June 14, 2010.
  13. Center for Competitive Politics, "Support Center for Competitive Politics", Center for Competitive Politics website, accessed February 2009.
  14. Center for Competitive Politics, "2006 IRS Return", Guidestar, August 2007, page 1.
  15. Center for Competitive Politics, "2008 IRS Return", Guidestar.
  16. Center for Competitive Politics, Media Matters, accessed November 2010.
  17. Center for Competitive Politics "Press Release" Center for Competitive Politics, May 3, 2010]
  18. Lee Feng, "Secretive Right-Wing Plutocrats Use Front Groups To Attack New Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill", Think Progress, May 1, 2010.
  19. MacCleery, Laura, "CCP Survey Debunker", Brennan Center for Justice website, accessed February 2009.
  20. Center for Competitive Politics, "CCP Staff", Center for Competitive Politics website, accessed February 2009.