Appearances, Publications & Speeches
- Jan 22, 2014
It has now been four years and two election cycles since the Supreme Court delivered its bombshell decision in the Citizens United case, and the damage to our democracy and to the public’s faith in its elected officials has been staggering. At a time when the Roberts court is poised to do even more damage in its forthcoming McCutcheon v. FEC decision – involving a challenge to the long-standing aggregate contribution limits – it’s worth reflecting on how we got here.
The most common – and understandable – complaint about the Supreme Court’s infamous 2010 Citizens United decision is that it treated corporations the same as individuals for purposes of campaign spending. As distressing as that is, there are other serious flaws in the decision that, until reversed, will continue to haunt and undermine our electoral process in the coming years.
- Jan 14, 2014
The growth of the Internet notwithstanding, television advertising continues to be the dominant means used during U.S. political campaigns to communicate with voters -- the "nuclear weapon" of campaigns as Obama advisor David Axelrod once described it.
- Dec 18, 2013
For television viewers living in the Northern Virginia suburbs this past fall, it was hard to miss one particular ad because it ran in a saturation rotation in the Washington D.C. media market hammering Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli. The ads run by Independence USA PAC attacked Cuccinelli on his stance on guns, accusing him of “voting against closing the gun show loophole,” “endangering our families” and “undermining law enforcement and calling Cuccinelli “too extreme for Virginia.” Notably, this ad had little, if any, rotation in downstate Virginia.
By its own admission, Independence USA PAC spent more than $1 million on ads to support the Democratic candidate – and eventual winner – Terry McAuliffe.
Poster Boy For Dysfunction: Redistricting and Citizens United in the Texas 27th (The Huffington Post)Nov 27, 2013
Texas' 27th Congressional District offers a perfect rebuttal to those trying to pretend that gerrymandering and big money did not play a huge role in the recent government shutdown and gridlock in Washington in general.
There is no doubt that our nation remains closely and starkly divided in our political views. Certainly "demographic sorting," partisan news outlets, and north/south and urban/rural divides are among the factors playing significant roles in the current polarized politics but redistricting and the flood of money unleashed by the Supreme Court's ill-advised Citizen United decision are key contributors to the dysfunction that has gripped Washington by the throat.
- Oct 2, 2013
Are you worried that millionaires don't have enough influence in our elections? If you can't contribute more than $123,000 to politicians, are your free speech rights harmed?
At least 99% of Americans would laugh at the absurdity of these questions, but not Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama political donor. McCutcheon v. FEC, his court challenge to the $123,200 aggregate contribution limit, has made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where it will be heard on October 8.
Aggregate limits -- or the total someone can contribute to federal candidates and committees each two-year election cycle -- was previously before the Supreme Court.
- Jul 10, 2013
CBS profit will climb by $180 million this year from political advertising, Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves said, exceeding the amount received by the company in the last presidential election year. Political action committees are boosting the amount of money being spent on television and radio commercials in support of candidates and issues, Moonves said today at an entertainment law conference at the University of California, Los Angeles. CBS will take in more political ads than the 2008 presidential election year, he said. “Super PACs may be bad for America,” Moonves said, “but they’re very good for CBS.”
Bloomberg News, March 10, 2012
- Mar 19, 2013
Not surprisingly, the Office of Congressional Ethics is under attack yet again. The office, which helped bring some accountability and transparency to the House ethics process, has not been popular since its creation. This time the offensive is coming from a group of defense attorneys who represent members of Congress and their staffs against allegations of ethics violations.
It is also not surprising to see high-dollar, white-collar defense attorneys pressing for advantages for their clients. They see an advantage in creating at the OCE the kind of adversarial process where they excel. The changes they are seeking are designed to give their clients an undue advantage in an ethics investigation: the right to see reports before they are made public, access to all the evidence that’s favorable to the member of Congress, and a “heads up” before the OCE asks the member of Congress for information and documents.
- 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 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.