Campaign Finance

  • September 19, 2014
    Buying The Vote
    A History of Campaign Finance Reform
    Robert E. Mutch

    by Billy Corriher, Director of Research for Legal Progress, Center for American Progress  

    Early on in Robert Mutch's book, Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform, the identity of the villain is clear. Mutch describes the campaign finance reformers of the early twentieth century as focused on keeping corporations from exerting too much influence on politics and politicians. As large corporations first emerged, the public debated the proper role of these institutions in our democracy. After a series of scandals, early reformers' goals included "keeping corporate money out of elections and preventing the inequality of wealth from undermining political equality among individual citizens."

    Mutch also clearly disagrees with the current U.S. Supreme Court's approach to campaign finance reform. But unlike so much commentary today, Mutch provides rich context for his critique. He begins with early campaign finance scandals and the small triumphs of reformers like Louise Overacker. The early reformers achieved some victories, after the public learned that "the country's major political parties were being financed by" large corporations. New laws led to disclosure of campaign contributors and bans on corporate campaign cash.

    The second wave of reforms came in the wake of Nixon's secret receipt of campaign contributions from corporations. But Mutch notes that, unlike the response to the first wave, opponents rushed to the courts to block the new laws. The definition of democracy as excluding corporations was challenged when "the enforcement provisions of the post-Watergate laws raised the possibility that the....reforms would be more than symbolic."

    In the face of campaign finance reform, environmental regulations, and consumer advocates, big business felt like it was under attack at the time. Justice Lewis Powell, while an attorney for the US Chamber of Commerce, wrote an infamous memo warning that business needed direct political action to counter the "assault on the enterprise system."

  • September 16, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In The Atlantic, Garrett Epps writes about the unique gerrymandering question in Arizona and the Constitutional questions raised in putting redistricting in the hands of the people. 

    Less than $5,200 can buy you influence in Congress, argues Usha Rodrigues in Slate.

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times argues that the decision to allow officials to enforce a controversial voter ID law in Wisconsin will cause electoral chaos.

    Hannah Levintova of Mother Jones provides details on the seven same-sex marriage cases the Supreme Court is considering whether to hear this term.

    At Above the Law, Joe Patrice examines a federal lawsuit filed by a student at Penn State University, Dickinson School of Law over their investigation of the student’s alleged cheating.

  • September 12, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Martha Bergmark of Voices for Civil Justice writes for CNN on the many children facing deportation hearings alone after seeking refuge at the border. The ACSblog recently featured  research on unaccompanied migrants from Voices for Civil Justice.

    In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick explains how voter ID laws may actually worsen voter fraud.

    Norm Ornstein writes in The Atlantic on the need for a bipartisan coalition to challenge the abuses of the criminal justice system.

    The Center for Reproductive Rights reports on the Missouri legislature’s decision to force women to wait 72 hours for abortion services.

    John Nichols reports for The Nation that a vote to advance a constitutional amendment on campaign finance is stalled by filibuster threats.

    In The New York Times, Thomas B. Edsall argues that the current campaign finance system is “incompatible with the goals of democracy.”

  • September 9, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Geoffrey R. Stone. He is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law for the University of Chicago, the former ACS Board Chair and current Co-Chair of the Board of Advisors for the ACS Chicago Lawyer Chapter, and a Co-Faculty Advisor for the University of Chicago Law School ACS Student Chapter

    *This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post. 

    In the context of ongoing deliberations over a proposed amendment to the Constitution to authorize the government to enact laws regulating campaign expenditures and contributions, a sharp, even bitter, rift has emerged between different generations of the ACLU's leadership over the ACLU's understanding of the First Amendment. The rift is not about whether to adopt the proposed constitutional amendment (neither side of the intra-ACLU debate has endorsed it), but about the ACLU's position on the constitutionality of campaign finance reform today.

    The current leadership of the ACLU takes a strong pro-free speech position that, like the position of Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts, looks askance at most forms of campaign finance regulation that would limit the freedom of individuals to spend as much as they want in the political process to advance their political beliefs.

    The six individuals who led the ACLU from 1962 to 1993 endorse a rather different view. In a letter sent on September 4 to the leadership of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, they embraced a position that, like the position of Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, recognizes that limitations on campaign expenditures and contributions may be necessary to ensure the proper functioning of the democratic process.

  • September 9, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Walter Shapiro writes for the Brennan Center for Justice on why candidates should reject campaign cash even without strict campaign finance laws.

    In The Boston Globe, Paul Elias reports on oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in three cases dealing with same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii.   

    A constitutional amendment to allow greater regulation of campaign finance advanced in the Senate, but partisanship could still stall the measure, reports Burgess Everett of Politico.

    Daniel LaChance argues in The New York Times that capital punishment is a failed government program.

    Mark Walsh of Education Week writes about the death of Lillian Gobitas Klose, whose refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1930s led to a Supreme Court case on the First Amendment.