Appearances, Publications & Speeches

  • Unlimited contributions to parties would be disastrous (The Hill)

    Oct 10, 2012

    You can’t even watch the playoffs these days without being bombarded by political attack ads by groups who won’t say where they get their money.  Some political operatives now tell us if party committees could just take unlimited donations, the ads by these outside groups will go away.   If you’re buying that, I bet they’ve got a bridge to sell you as well.

    Unlimited contributions to political parties would be a huge mistake.  All this proposed “reform” would do is give wealthy donors who are currently financing independent expenditures yet another avenue to buy access and influence with candidates and officeholders.

    Large contributions to candidates and political parties corrupt and create the appearance of corruption, decreasing public confidence in government and our democratic process.

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  • Why Doesn't the Law Give Full Free Speech Protection to Voters?

    It seems like an obvious proposition, that a citizen registering to vote casting a ballot, is engaged in free speech, a fundamental right entitled to full protection under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The proposition seems especially obvious in light of the broad First Amendment protection extended to the dollars spent by financial contributors to influence our votes.

    But that is not how the Supreme Court sees it. Spending in elections -- by candidates, political parties, individuals, corporations, labor unions, and others -- is treated as free speech entitled to broad First Amendment protection against state and federal limitation. Registering and voting, on the other hand, do not have such protection and can be restricted within states' broad discretion.

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  • Redistricting in the Post-2010 Cycle: Lessons Learned?

    After each decennial federal census, state and local governments across the country begin the process of redrawing their congressional districts, state legislative seats, and local governing bodies to accommodate population shifts.  All state and local redistricting plans must comport with federal limitations, most notably constitutional equal population requirements and the Voting Rights Acts of 1965, as amended (VRA).   Unless constrained by state constitutional or statutory requirements, state and local governments have wide latitude to develop and apply their own redistricting criteria.  In practice, however, few state laws set more rigorous standards than those already required under federal law.

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  • Should There Be Less Disclosure in Campaign Finance? (U.S. News & World Report)

    Jun 28, 2012

    Disclosure about money in politics is as American as apple pie.  When Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” he expressed the fundamental notion that American democracy is best served by having citizens who are informed about the message and the messenger.

    Currently, the problem in our political system is too little disclosure.  Groups such as Crossroads GPS (run by Republican operative Karl Rove) and Priorities USA (run by Democratic operative Bill Burton) are spending massive amounts to influence the outcome of the 2012 elections.  Yet they are able to keep the sources of their money hidden, providing donors with anonymity.

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  • Part II: Would Campaign Finance Transparency Result in Donor Bullying?

    Jun 27, 2012

    The argument by conservatives (who once espoused disclosure) that disclosure now should be opposed because it could subject high-profile donors to bullying and harassment is not only hypocritical, it’s disgraceful.

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  • Part I: Would Campaign Finance Transparency Result in Donor Bullying?

    Jun 27, 2012

    When it comes to changing his tune on disclosure, the rank hypocrisy of Senator Mitch McConnell is not that surprising.  The audacity of it is breathtaking, but the swing was predictable.  After all, Senator McConnell is first and foremost a politician who, as Senate Minority Leader, is doing everything he can for his party to gain control of the government.   If anonymous funding appears at this point to benefit his party, disclosure is bad.  If the shoe were on the other foot - if the Democrats seemed to be gaining advantage at the moment from opaque spending - you can be assured he would be harping against secret money.

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  • A Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United? (Politico Arena)

    Jun 19, 2012

    On the surface, a Constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United might seem like a golden ticket for those who were stunned by the Court's decision.  An amendment would appear to respond to the problem of huge corporate expenditures and contributions often made with anonymous funds, and would place such restrictions beyond the reach of the heavy-handed Roberts Court.  But while an effort the likes of Rep. Schiff’s is admirable, it is not necessarily the best answer.

    It is certainly understandable why many favor a Constitutional amendment to counter Citizens United, which overturned nearly 100 years of laws.  But Constitutional amendments are nearly impossible to pass - according to C-SPAN, up to 200 amendments are proposed every term of Congress - and even once that mountain is scaled, are often possible to circumvent.

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  • Media's Focus on Super PACs Is Warranted (Politico Arena)

    Jun 14, 2012

    Has the coverage of super PACs, and Adelson's donation specifically, been warranted? Absolutely!  Citizens United and its progeny, SpeechNow, have created an Orwellian world in which money is speech and corporations are people.  it defies common sense.

    New avenues created by Citizens United allow billionaires like Adelson to spend unlimited money to influence candidates -and the elections themselves. This avenue for big money-influence is nothing less than a seismic shift in the democratic process.

    Before 2010, gifts to PACs (groups that influence federal elections) had limits. If Sheldon Adelson wanted to give to organized political entities, there were caps in place to limit his personal influence.  Individuals could make independent expenditures, but they had proved both cumbersome and had limited effectiveness for a number of reasons.

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  • Super PACs, "Shadow Super PACs" And the Avalanche of Money

    Jun 1, 2012

    Super PACs are a blight on America's political landscape.  They provide a means for very wealthy individuals and corporate special interests to evade anti-corruption laws that have been on the books for decades. 

    The courts have long recognized that large contributions to political candidates can corrupt and reduce public confidence in our democratic system.  So courts have upheld limits on how much individuals may contribute to candidates, as well as outright bans on corporate and union contributions to candidates.  But today, Super PACs are operating as de facto campaigns unrestricted by such limits.

    Super PACs have the ability to both distort the political process and to affect the outcome of a federal election.  Super PAC spending buys access and influence for the Super PAC funders.

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  • Unraveling the John Edwards Case (Politico Arena)

    May 29, 2012

    The jury considering the charges against former Senator John Edwards has already surprised many observers by taking more time to consider the case than it took the Edwards lawyers to put on their defense.  There is speculation that the case will be appealed if Edwards is convicted, raising questions about the judge’s instructions to the jury about the evidence and applicable standards of law.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the case has been the disagreements about whether the case should have been brought in the first place - disagreements that are not falling along party or ideological lines. Those speaking out against the prosecution include Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and former Federal Election Commissioner Scott Thomas, who testified in the case (with the jury out of the room).

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