• March 1, 2017

    by Katie O’Connor

    In an era of record political polarization, there are still a handful of issues on which Americans seem to agree. One such issue is the need to implement serious campaign finance reform and drastically reduce the amount of money in politics. According to a 2015 New York Times/CBS News poll, 84 percent of respondents thought that money has too much influence in American political campaigns. 39 percent of respondents said the system for funding political campaigns needs fundamental changes, and another 46 percent said the system needs to be completely rebuilt. Over three-quarters of respondents were in favor of limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns.

    Despite a near consensus on the need for change, little has been done to slow the flood of money into politics in recent years. In fact, it has only hastened, with some help from the Supreme Court. The 2016 presidential election is estimated to have cost $6.9 billion, up from $4.3 billion in 2000. Part of the blame for the impasse lies with Congress, which has been growing increasingly gridlocked for decades. But Congressional deadlock is not a total bar to campaign finance reform.

    The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the agency whose mission is to enforce and administer campaign finance laws. Specifically, the FEC enforces laws which seek to “limit the disproportionate influence of wealthy individuals and special interest groups on the outcome of federal elections; regulate spending in campaigns for federal office; and deter abuses by mandating public disclosure of campaign finances.” Despite its bipartisan and overwhelmingly popular mission and its distance from a dysfunctional Congress, the FEC is not immune to gridlock. In fact, it has come to be referred to, in some circles, as the Failure to Enforce Commission.

  • June 23, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    Frank Bruni argues in The New York Times that the fight for marriage equality was not an overnight victory, but one spanning decades.

    At the blog for the Brennan Center for Justice, Ciara Torres-Spelliscy considers how the failure of the Federal Election Commission to regulate money in politics is threatening the rule of law.

    Brianne Gorod of Slate considers the pending Supreme Court decisions outside of same-sex marriage and King v. Burwell.

    At Mother Jones, Stephanie Mencimer explains how the Chief Justice could save the Affordable Care Act in order to protect big business.

    In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf takes a look at a victory for privacy rights at the Supreme Court.

    The Balitmore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray plead not guilty, reports Tom Liddy of ABC News.

  • July 16, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Assistant Professor of Law at Stetson University College of Law. She is the author of a forthcoming law review article entitled “How Much Does an Ambassadorship Cost?” as well as co-author with Dr. Kathy Fogel of “Shareholder-Authorized Corporate Political Spending in the United Kingdom” in the Spring 2012 issue of the University of San Francisco Law Review.

    One open question vexing voters in 2012 is how much corporate money is influencing the election.  The reason that this basic question is so hard to answer is the broken system we have for reporting money in politics.

    Of course, some money in politics can be easily traced thanks to the yeoman’s work of organizations like the Center for Responsive Politics, which runs OpenSecrets.org and the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which runs FollowTheMoney. But these two groups are only as strong as the underlying disclosure laws.

    The loopholes in these disclosure laws are big enough to accommodate an armored Brinks truck full of campaign cash. Just like a real Brinks truck, voters can’t see through the truck to tell exactly how much money is in play.