Appearances, Publications & Speeches
- Nov 19, 2012
Don’t blame Citizens United for the worst excesses of this year’s election.
Instead, look to the failures of the Federal Election Commission.
- Nov 15, 2012
The airwaves and the newspapers have been peppered with reports belittling the impact of outside groups on the 2012 election. Many have taken it a step further and concluded that super-PACs and “dark money” groups — the groups that don’t disclose their donors — are not the threat to our democracy that many had feared. That is where they are wrong.
Outside groups spent $1 billion dollars on the 2012 election, with $400 million of that coming from “dark money” groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In one Senate race alone, Virginia, outside groups pumped in $37 million; the candidates themselves, by contrast, spent $30 million.
- Oct 18, 2012
“One person, one vote” is a bedrock of our democracy. From the beginning, this nation explicitly rejected the plutocracy the Founding Fathers knew so well. That each citizen’s vote counts the same as any other citizen’s—regardless of wealth or social status—remains an ideal that continues to inspire around the world, even when we fall short.
- Oct 17, 2012
The new issue of the Rutgers Law Review takes a close at the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a year when the Supreme Court is expected to revisit the landmark Civil Rights legislation. Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert wrote an article for the issue, “The Future of the Voting Rights Act” which examines the background of the Act, its multiple renewals and the court challenges which followed each one. The piece goes on to take a close look at the Act’s Section 5 bailout provisions, their effectiveness and affordability, the Court’s significant underestimate of the jurisdictions which have utilized them, and how they provide the flexibility to continually tweak and improve this still-vital Congressional remedy to discrimination.
To read the full article in the Rutgers Law Review, click here.
- 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.
- Oct 2, 2012
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.
- Sep 6, 2012
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.