Campaign Finance

  • May 5, 2014

    The effects of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission are being felt in elections across the country. Writing for the Brennan Center for Justice, Ian Vandewalker discusses how the Republican primary in Florida’s 19th congressional district “illustrates how individual wealth can be an avenue to a seat in Congress — a body in which millionaires now have a majority.”
    As calls for the retirement of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg persist, the justice remains steadfast in her decision to continue her “pathmarking” career. Jess Bravin at The Wall Street Journal  discusses Ginsburg’s tenure on the court and a life representing both “historic significance and present-day power.”
    Writing for The New York Times, ACS Board Member Linda Greenhouse addresses Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and why “the decision stopped short of a direct hit on affirmative action.”
    Jennifer Bard at Prawfsblawg notes Senator Elizabeth Warren’s A Fighting Chance and why “student loan reform is necessary but not sufficient to developing a legal education that better prepares our students for the important role they will play in society.”
    Robert Tsai at Concurring Opinions proposes “the creation of a new national office dedicated to the protection of civil and human rights.” 
  • April 28, 2014

    by Jeremy Leaming

    U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Crotty had no choice – he was bound by recent Supreme Court precedent to strike some New York campaign spending limits. As The New York Times’ David Firestone noted, Judge Crotty’s 5-page opinion and order provided “about as clear-eyed description of the corruption now permeating the political system as anyone has written.”

    Judge Crotty took to task the Supreme Court’s opinions in Citizens United v. FEC and this year’s McCutcheon v. FEC, both of which have only made it easier for the wealthy to control the nation’s elections. (And many have argued that the wealthy have never needed such help. A recent study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page for Princeton found that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”)

    In his April 24 opinion and order, Judge Crotty nevertheless had to invalidate some modest limits on spending by independent groups, in this case a group called the New York Progress Protection Pac, which spent heavily in support of Republican Joseph Lhota’s New York City mayoral race. In the process, however, Crotty blasted the Supreme Court’s majority opinions in Citizens United and McCutcheon.

    “In effect” Crotty wrote, “it is only direct bribery – not influence – that the [Supreme] Court views as crossing the line into quid pro quo corruption.” Crotty noted that he believes Justice Stephen Breyer who lodged a dissent in McCutcheon got it right, but that his hands were tied because of the majority opinions in McCutcheon and Citizens United.

    He “who pays the piper calls the tune,” Crotty wrote. “Indeed, today’s reality is that the voices of ‘we the people’ are too often drowned out by the few who have great resources. In today’s never-ending cycle of campaigning and lobbying; lobbying and campaigning, elected officials know where there money is coming from and that it must keep coming if they are to stay in office. Ordinary citizens recognize this; they know what is going on; they know they are not being included. It breeds cynicism and distrust.”

    See Crotty’s full opinion here.

    But beyond evolving Supreme Court precedent that advances interests of the wealthy, Professor Nicholas Carnes writing for TPM Cafe says we also must realize who is crafting policy in Washington -- primarily millionaires.

    “My research suggests,” Carnes writes, “that we have a government for the privileged in the United States in part because we have government by the privileged.” Carnes research shows how rare it is for voters to be able to support candidates from the middle-or-working classes. Typically the voter has a narrow choice, “Do you want to vote for a millionaire lawyer or a millionaire business owner?”

  • April 25, 2014

    On Monday, the Supreme Court “declined to review an executive order issued by Florida Governor Rick Scott that had required all state employees take random drug tests,” leaving in place a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that Gov. Scott’s order was too broad.
    Shalini Goel Agarwal of the American Civil Liberties Union, who represents the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in the litigation, stated that “without a threat to public safety or a suspicion of drug use, people can't be required to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to serve the people of Florida.” Lawrence Hurley at Reuters has the story.
    On Tuesday, the high court heard oral argument for a case involving “a request from television broadcasters to shut down Aereo, an Internet start-up they say threatens the economic viability of their businesses.” Adam Liptak at The New York Times breaks down American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc.
    Writing for The Daily Beast, Michael Waldman explains why, when it comes to “executive actions to improve our democracy” President Obama “should go further on voting and transparency to make government work better.”
    TPM’s Sahil Kapur notes “the Supreme Court's unprecedented public clash over race.”
  • April 22, 2014
    Today, the Supreme Court “upheld a Michigan voter initiative that banned racial preferences in admissions to the state’s public universities.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that “the Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat…but neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities.” Adam Liptak at The New York Times has the story.
    Earlier this morning, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. The case deals with the issue of whether it can be a crime to falsify information about a candidate in a political campaign.  NPR’s Katie Barlow and Nina Totenberg break down this issue of free speech.
    Writing for The American Prospect, Virginia Eubanks explains why “Big Data might have disproportionate impacts on the poor, women, or racial and religious minorities.”
    David Gans at Balkinization responds to George Will’s column for The Washington Post , defending progressive’s constitutional interpretation which “does not force us to choose between liberty and democracy.”  
    At The Brennan Center for Justice, Walter Shapiro “[demystifies] the power of money in politics.” 
  • April 17, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    New laws throughout the country are restricting access to abortion clinics. In 2013, “22 US states adopted 70 different restrictions on abortion, including late-abortion bans, doctor and clinic regulations, limits on medication abortions, and bans on insurance coverage.” Writing for The Guardian, Erika L. Sánchez explains why those who can’t reverse Roe v.  Wade are “focusing on generating enough red tape to shut down as many abortion facilities as possible.”
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is preparing for oral argument in a case challenging Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban. Similar to Utah’s controversial law at issue in Kitchen v. Herbert, Oklahoma’s law “prohibits gay couples from marrying and prevents the state government from recognizing such unions performed anywhere else.”  Emma Margolin at MSNBC breaks down Bishop v. Oklahoma.  

    Writing for The New York Times, ACS Board Member Linda Greenhouse breaks down McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission and its “indecent burial” of campaign finance.

    Tonight on C-SPAN, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia will discuss the First Amendment and “the contemporary meaning of freedom.”