July 19, 2010 – Federalist No. 59 – Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, July 19th, 2010

Hello from Mt. Vernon Virginia! As Janine mentioned in her essay last night, we have been very busy over the past few days reading essays and poems, viewing short films and public service announcements, listening to songs, and looking at artwork, all submitted by a diverse group of young people across the country, with theme of how the Constitution is relevant to them today!

The good news is that we received an overwhelming response for our first “We The People 9.17 Contest!”   The entries have been inspiring! The contest entrants all worked hard and put forth their very best efforts and creativity!

The bad news is that there are only so many hours in a day, and I have discovered that every now and then, I actually need to sleep!   I have missed writing essays on Federalist Papers for a few days, but have been greatly encouraged by the knowledge of, respect for, and dedication to the United States Constitution by the young people who entered the contest.

Stay tuned for updates on the “We The People 9.17 Contest,” including the announcement of our distinguished panel of judges, and September 17 activities in Philadelphia where we will reveal the contest winners!

Federalist No. 59 discusses the advantages of the federal government regulating its elections.  As someone who has worked in federal campaigns, I believe it makes sense to have uniform federal election laws, and the only way to achieve uniformity, is to regulate these elections federally.

Through a series of legislative acts, beginning in 1867 when Congress passed a law prohibiting officers from soliciting political contributions from Navy Yard workers, Congress has passed laws to require public disclosure of federal campaign contributions, set limits on individual contributions to federal campaigns, prohibit certain sources of campaign donations,  restrict certain types of federal campaign expenditures, and in certain cases, limit federal campaign expenditures if public financing is accepted.  Because of abuses that occurred during the Watergate era of our country, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was established in 1975 as an independent agency, with civil enforcement jurisdiction, authority to write regulations, monitor compliance, and serve as a centralized source of information about federal elections, federal campaign committees, and federal campaign donors.

If you have never taken a few minutes to explore the Federal Election Commission website: www.fec.gov, I highly recommend it.  You will find it fascinating!  With a few clicks (“Campaign Finance Reports and Data” on left sidebar, and then “Search the Disclosure Database”) you can search Federal Campaign Contribution Data in a variety of ways.   You can also read about the latest campaign finance laws and regulations and a history of the FEC.

Like all other congressional powers, our founding fathers devised checks on Congress’s regulation of Federal elections.  One check, the States’ power to appoint U.S. Senators, was removed with the adoption of the 17th Amendment.  This was an important structural check, noted by Hamilton in Federalist No. 59 as “that absolute safeguard which they (States) will enjoy under this provision.”

While the States have lost their power to have a voice in Congress’s power to regulate federal elections, the judicial branch is still actively engaged.  The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Electio Commission (holding that the First Amendment prohibits restrictions on corporate financing of independent advertising in federal election campaigns) is one example.

Of course the most important check is our vote.  As Janine Turner stated in her Fox News Op-Ed, Your Vote is Your Voice . Ues it!  Research how your member of Congress votes on Federal Election Law issues.  Do you agree or disagree? Let your vote be your voice on November 2, 2010!

 

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