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Institute for Free Speech

David Keating is the president of the Institute for Free Speech.

Meet the reformer: David Keating, leader for the right on money in politics

Closing in on nine years as president of the Institute for Free Speech, David Keating long ago cemented his status as one of the foremost conservative forces in the money-in-politics debate. The nonprofit's aim is to safeguard First Amendment rights, particularly unfettered political speech, and views deregulation of campaign finance as central to that goal. Keating took charge after a similar group he started, SpeechNow.org, won a federal lawsuit to end donation and spending limits on independent political groups — thus creating super PACs. He had top posts at two prominent fiscal conservative organizations, the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union, earlier in a D.C. advocacy career dating to the 1980s. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?

Stopping government from discouraging dissent.

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Caroline Brehman/Getty Images

FEC Chairman Trey Trainor said the separation of church and state is a "fallacy."

Trump's FEC member says this election is a 'spiritual war'

The nation's newest campaign finance regulator is inserting himself into the never- ending debate about separating church and state, and causing a stir by accusing Roman Catholic bishops of hiding behind their church's nonprofit status to avoid endorsing candidates.

Trey Trainor, a Catholic who was confirmed for a long-vacant seat on the Federal Election Commission in May, also said in an interview with the conservative website Church Militant released on Wednesday (and a followup interview with the Religion News Service) that separation of church and state is a "fallacy" and that this year's election amounts to a "spiritual war."

None of these comments would appear to have any bearing on Trainor's role overseeing the federal rules that govern the flow of money into politics, but they quickly attracted criticism.

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The story behind the indictment of Ohio Speaker Larry Householder is "just another normal tale about the sway cash has over politics in recent decades," writes Jeff Clements.

Bribery — or business as usual in our dysfunctional political system

Clements is the president of American Promise, which advocates for amending the Constitution to allow more federal and state regulation of money in politics. He was previously an assistant Massachusetts attorney general.

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