Appearances, Publications & Speeches
- Mar 6, 2018
The FEC has done nothing to address the tremendous and fundamental changes to our campaign system in recent years, from the rise of super PACs to new threats posed by untraceable money in online ads. The FEC has completely abdicated its responsibility to police super PACs and dark money groups like 501(c)(4)s, refusing to enforce current rules or put in place new rules to regulate their conduct.
Los Angeles Times: In any other presidency, our 'insufficiently accurate' secretary of Veterans Affairs would be goneFeb 28, 2018
On February 28, 2018, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by Walter Shaub, CLC Senior Director, in regards to VA Secretary David Shulkin’s ethics problems.
- Feb 20, 2018
On February 23, 2018, Brendan Fischer, CLC Director of Federal and FEC Reform, appeared on Al Jazeera in regards to the ethical climate of the Trump administration.
- Feb 16, 2018
On February 16th, 2018, Larry Noble, CLC Senior Director, appeared on Yahoo News' podcast, Skullduggary, in regards to Donald Trump giving hush money to Stormy Daniels.
LA Times: Trump's Ethics Office has blessed an unethical legal defense fund for the president's associatesFeb 9, 2018
Under cover of last week's feverish reaction to the FBI memorandum released by Rep. Devin Nunes, the Office of Government Ethics quietly dumped documents revealing a new low point in the agency's 40-year history. In a letter signed Jan. 29th, but withheld from public view until the memo frenzy was peaking, the agency's Trump-appointed acting director, David Apol, blessed a shockingly permissive arrangement for funneling cash to White House appointees and others linked to Trump.
- Feb 9, 2018
The tales of unethical behavior and secret “hush money” deals have rightly spurred the U.S. House of Representatives to overhaul sexual harassment and discrimination oversight in the legislative branch. As an advocate who worked to enact the original Congressional Accountability Act, I knew the final legislation was less than perfect in 1995. But it established an enormously important precedent: Congress should live by the laws it applies to others. It’s time to end the Capitol Hill culture that often only seeks to protect itself and has been hiding unethical behavior behind closed doors to the detriment of the public trust placed in our nation’s elected leaders.
- Feb 8, 2018
Walter Shaub Jr. has blasted the Trump White House for creating an “ethics crisis,” but the previous head of the Office of Government Ethics now is offering praise for the administration’s choice for his successor.
The Yale Law Journal: A Post-Shelby Strategy: Exposing Discriminatory Intent in Voting Rights LitigationFeb 8, 2018
For decades, intentional discrimination claims were relatively rare in voting rights cases. Both scholarly and judicial attention, therefore, was focused on developing the results test jurisprudence under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. But the influx of new barriers to voting and the loss of preclearance since Shelby County has changed the legal landscape and ushered in a new strategic embrace of intentional discrimination claims. While intentional discrimination claims impose a higher evidentiary burden, recent success with these claims demonstrates their legal and strategic benefits. By holding jurisdictions accountable for not only the results of their actions but also their motives, voting rights plaintiffs can secure more complete remedies, win back preclearance, build a public record of continuing racial discrimination, and expose the voter fraud myth as pretext in neutral fora. In so doing, our democracy will be strengthened and the most precious right we have as Americans, the right to vote, will be safeguarded for future generations.
- Feb 7, 2018
Delaware already responded to the Campaign Legal Center’s letter and said it would be changing its forms. The project seeks to help the huge numbers of people with felony convictions by improving voter registration forms in a way that clearly informs them of their rights and makes sure people understand “they can and should be part of our electorate,” Lang said. There’s a misconception in the public at large that all felons aren’t eligible to vote, which is not true, and the state registration forms are a mess when it comes to helping people determine if they can vote, Lang said.
- Feb 6, 2018
On February 6, 2018, Tara Malloy, CLC Senior Director, appeared on an NPR podcast in regards to Senator Bob Menendez's bribery case.
- Feb 2, 2018
On February 2, 2018, Trevor Potter, CLC President, was interviewed by Jennifer Lawrence in regards to private interests in today's politics.
- Feb 1, 2018
On February 2, 2018 Gerry Hebert, gave oral testimony before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in North Carolina.
Paul Smith and Marcia Coyle in Conversation: Gerrymandering at the Supreme Court (The National Law Journal)Jan 30, 2018
On January 30, 2018, Paul Smith, CLC Senior Legal Counsel, was interviewed by Marcia Coyle in regards to the current U.S. Supreme Court gerrymandering cases.
- Jan 24, 2018
Federal elections are the pillar of our national democracy, and the decennial census is the foundation for those elections and assuring that every person is counted accurately and has fair political representation. That makes the responsibility of the Census Bureau to carry out an accurate and fair census a critical charge. Everything from how we are represented in Congress to community resources for our schools, hospitals, and assistance to veterans depends on reliable and accurate census data. Unfortunately, as our country moves along a shrinking timeline for executing the 2020 census, serious legal concerns are emerging regarding how the Trump administration views Census Bureau leadership. We applaud the letter recently sent by eight leading legal advocacy organizations to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, urging him to ensure a lawful and transparent process for filling leadership vacancies at this vital agency. We echo concerns set out in the letter that the administration’s apparent approach would flout the will of Congress by disregarding federal law and circumventing the Senate’s role in providing advice and consent for a Census Bureau director.
- Jan 23, 2018
American political campaigns are extended crescendos of vitriol. Passions and tempers run high. But at the end of all the viciousness, the citizens cast their votes. They have the right to do so in a place of peaceful contemplation. For tens of millions of Americans who vote in person, the voting process is designed to foster such contemplation. We are able to walk into the polling place without being harassed, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Burson v. Freeman that states may bar electioneering within a certain distance from each polling place. We stand in lines together (hopefully very short lines, if the election is administered and resourced properly), and we mark our ballots next to each other. We submit our votes and take our “I Voted” stickers, hoping that our preferred candidates will be victorious, but willing in any event to accept the collective judgment of our fellow citizens — the very people with whom we just stood in line.
- Jan 23, 2018
CLC Senior Director, Walter Shaub appeared on C-SPAN in regards to Donald Trump's decision to maintain control of his business operations while in office.
- Jan 2, 2018
On January 2, 2018, CLC Senior Director, Walter Shaub appeared on CNN to discuss the standards Ivanka Trump is held at in regard to conflicts.
- Dec 15, 2017
CLC Senior Director, Ethics Walter Shaub was interviewed by Virginia Heffernan's podcast, Trumpcast, regarding the general ethical climate of the Trump administration and what it's like to run a federal agency.
- Dec 8, 2017
CLC Director, Brendan Fischer, appeared on CNN regarding a proposal that could create tax deductible and annonymous political donations possible.
- Nov 27, 2017
The special counsel is facing the biggest test of his career. I’m referring not to Robert S.Mueller III but to Henry Kerner of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the small agency that investigates Hatch Act violations. That law prohibits executive branch employees from using their government positions to influence elections, which is precisely what presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway did last week. Whether Kerner will enforce the law is another matter.
- Nov 26, 2017
CLC's Fellow, Blair Bowie, appeared on CBS 19 discussing CLC's efforts to register voters in Alabama.
- Nov 8, 2017
CLC Senior Legal Counsel, Danielle Lang, appeared on KJZZ, NPR's Phoenix affiliate, to discuss Arizona’s dual-track voting registration system which is being challenged in court.
- Nov 8, 2017
On November 8, 2017, CLC Senior Director, Walter Shaub appeared on a panel at the University of Minnesota Law School on the ethical climate of the Trump administration.
- Nov 8, 2017
On November 8, 2017, CLC Senior Director, Walter Shaub appeared on a panel at the University of Minnesota Law School on the ethical climate of the Trump administration.
- Nov 1, 2017
Trevor Potter, President of the Campaign Legal Center, wrote an Op-Ed for The Hill in support of the Honest Ads Act and enhanced disclosure.
- Nov 1, 2017
At a reception marking CLC's 15 years of advancing democracy President Trevor Potter delivered the following remarks.
- Oct 30, 2017
Adav Noti, Senior Director of the Campaign Legal Center, wrote an Op-Ed for The Hill on the compaint filed by CLC against Hillary for America and the DNC for improper FEC reports.
Kevin de León won’t be able to transfer money from his state campaign accounts to his federal campaign for U.S. Senate (Capital Public Radio)Oct 30, 2017
CLC General Counsel, Larry Noble appeared on Capital Public Radio, Sacramento's NPR Affiliate, Kevin de Leon's transition from a state to a federal candidate.
Testimony in Support of Establishing a System of Public Financing for Political Campaigns in PhiladelphiaOct 20, 2017
CLC Director of Policy and State Programs, Catie Kelley testified before the Philadelphia City Council in support of legislation that would establish a system of public financing for political campaigns.
- Oct 12, 2017
On October 12, 2017, CLC convened a conference examining foreign interference in U.S. Elections. The conference was kicked off with a speech from CLC President, Trevor Potter. The first panel focused on the 2016 elections and was moderated by CLC Senior Director of Strategic Communications, Sandhya Bathija.
- Oct 12, 2017
On October 12, 2017, CLC convened a conference examining foreign interference in U.S. Elections. The panel was moderated by Tara Malloy, CLC Senior Director, and highlighted areas where existing law fell short in protecting the 2016 elections from foreign actors. Adav Noti, CLC Senior Director, Trial Litigation & Strategy was a member of the panel.
- Oct 12, 2017
On October 12, 2017, CLC convened a conference examining foreign interference in U.S. Elections. This panel discussed was that foreign interference must be addresed with a multi-discipline perspective.
- Oct 12, 2017
On October 12, 2017, CLC convened a conference examining foreign interference in U.S. Elections. The final panel of the day was moderated by CLC General Counsel, Larry Noble. The panel included CLC Counsel, David Kolker and had a eye toward the future and focused on fixes for the 2018 elections and beyond.
- Oct 11, 2017
Danielle Lang, Senior Legal Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, published an article in the UCLA Law Review on the efforts of California and other states to require disclosure of tax forms and financial information of candidates.
- Sep 23, 2017
On September 23, 2017, Walter Shaub appeared on a panel at the Texas Tribune Festival on the ethical climate of the Trump administration.
- Sep 23, 2017
CLC Senior Director, Gerry Hebert, outlined the arguments against partisan gerrymandering in an interview with Soledad O'Brien on Matter of Fact TV.
- Sep 19, 2017
Larry Noble, General Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, wrote an Op-Ed for The Hill on the ethical issues of the current administration including, Secretary Mnuchin.
- Sep 14, 2017
CLC Senior Director and General Counsel, Larry Noble appeared on CNN's Newsroom regarding Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin's use of public funds.
- Sep 12, 2017
On September 12, 2017, CLC President Trevor Potter appeared on a panel at the USC Unruh Institute of Politics on potential electoral reform, including the redistricting, and voting rights.
- Aug 24, 2017
Uncontested races have been on the rise since the 1970s. But the problem has begun to accelerate lately, particularly in state house races. The numbers are even worse in local elections, where candidate name recognition is lower, fewer people vote, and challengers have higher barriers to entry.
All of these uncontested races lead to unaccountable elected officials. It becomes impossible to know if candidates won because the voters like them and their policy views or merely because potential opponents didn’t want to run.
- Aug 23, 2017
CLC Senior Director and General Counsel, Larry Noble, appeared on NPR's All Things Considered to discuss the recent Hatch Act violation by HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
- Aug 22, 2017
Paul Smith, Vice President of the Campaign Legal Center, wrote an Op-Ed for Law360 on the importance of the 17th Amendment as a bulwark against partisan gerrymandering.
"By a donor being allowed to support a public official above and beyond the legal contribution limits undermines the law’s anti-corruption purpose" (KPCC)Aug 22, 2017
CLC Director of Federal and FEC Reform, Brendan Fischer appeared on KPCC (Los Angeles) regarding the large contributions made by donors at the "behest" of Mayor Eric Garcetti.
- Aug 22, 2017
CLC Senior Director for Ethics, Walter Shaub appeared on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews to discuss the dilemma faced by administration officials in continuing to serve.
- Aug 11, 2017
CLC Senior Director for Ethics, Walter Shaub appeared on Bloomberg Law to discuss the current ethical environment and his final days at OGE.
- Aug 1, 2017
CLC Senior Director for Ethics, Walter Shaub appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe to discuss the current ethical environment.
- Jul 28, 2017
CLC Senior Director for Ethics, Walter Shaub appeared on CSPAN's Newsmaker series to discuss the current ethical environment.
- Jul 28, 2017
CLC Senior Director for Ethics, Walter Shaub appeared on BBC's Newshour to discuss the current ethical environment and his final days at OGE.
- Jul 26, 2017
CLC Senior Director for Ethics, Walter Shaub appeared on PBS's NewsHour regarding the ethical environment of the Trump administration.
- Jul 26, 2017
CLC Senior Director for Ethics, Walter Shaub appeared on MSNBC's The Beat with Ari Melber regarding the the possibility of Trump firing & replacing Jeff Sessions.
- Jul 25, 2017
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics and current CLC Senior Director, Ethics, spoke with USA Today's Susan Page about a broad of range of ethics issues and the future of the OGE.
- Jul 24, 2017
CLC's Catie Kelley and Adav Noti submitted testimony to the Council of the District of Columbia on the need for campaign finance transparency and accountability. The Committee is actively considering two bills that would meaningfully inhibit the ability of District government to move on from pay-to-play scandals that have cast a shadow over the government for years.
- Jul 21, 2017
"It's unfortunate that the White House decided to play politics with the interim director role," Walter Shaub, who stepped down on Wednesday, said in a statement.
- Jul 19, 2017
Larry Noble's statement as delivered on July 19, 2017 on how our broken campaign finance system allows foreign governments to buy influence in our elections.
- Jul 19, 2017
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, talks with Rachel Maddow about the appropriateness of A.G. Jeff Sessions' recusal from campaign-related investigations, and Donald Trump's inappropriateness in addressing his myriad conflicts.
- Jul 19, 2017
"It's legal for the campaign to pay any legal expenses arising out of the campaign," said Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group. "What's interesting here is that the payment was made prior to any public disclosure of the emails from Donald Trump Jr." — the emails that earlier this month revealed the previously secret meeting.
- Jul 18, 2017
Recent experiences have convinced me that the existing mechanism is insufficient. The Office of Government Ethics needs greater authority to obtain information from the executive branch, including the White House. The White House and agencies lacking inspectors general need investigative oversight, which should be coordinated with O.G.E. The ethics office needs more independence, including authority to communicate directly with Congress on budgetary and legislative matters.
- Jul 17, 2017
The Campaign Legal Center supports the Fair Elections Act proposed in the District of Columbia, a well-crafted and constitutional piece of legislation. If enacted, the Act would establish a public financing system for D.C. election campaigns and propel the District to the national forefront in this area.
Donald Trump Jr. committed a very serious violation of campaign finance law by meeting with the Russian lawyer. (CSPAN)Jul 16, 2017
CLC Senior Director and General Counsel, Larry Noble appeared on CSPAN's Washington Journal regarding Donald Trump Jr.'s illegal meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Exiting Ethics Chief Walter Shaub Calls Trump White House 'A Disappointment' (NPR: All Things Considered)Jul 7, 2017
CLC Senior Director, Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr. appeared on NPR's All Things Coidnsered segment regarding his move from the OGE to the Campaign Legal Center.
- Jun 19, 2017
CLC Senior Legal Council Ruth Greenwood appeared on WUWM to talk about the Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering and the possible outcomes at the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Jun 19, 2017
It is often said that too much of anything can be bad for one’s health. If there is any indication from today's decision by the Supreme Court to hear arguments about the threat of partisan gerrymandering to the health of our democracy, politicians on both sides of the aisle should be worried about their growing and excessive use of this practice as a political weapon of choice to maintain political power at the expense of voters.
- May 16, 2017
CLC Federal and FEC Program Director Brendan Fischer appeared on Bloomberg regarding Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen fundraising letter to a woman's employer.
- May 15, 2017
CLC Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting Program Gerry Hebert appeared on KALW 's Your Call regarding President Trump and his voter fraud commission.
- May 11, 2017
On May 11, 2017, Trevor Potter delivered a speech at Lake Forest College in Illinois on money in politics issues surrounding the past election and Trump administration.
- May 8, 2017
CLC General Counsel Larry Noble spoke on KPBS regarding the Kushner family conflicts of interest regarding their business.
- May 4, 2017
Today President Trump signed an executive order addressing political spending by religious organizations. The order was not as broad as predicted. Instead of easing restrictions on political spending, it allows the IRS to continue to enforce the current restrictions, but prohibits those restrictions from being expanded.
Still, a potential repeal of this law is on the table, as Congress also took the issue up this morning.
For 63 years, Congress has barred entities organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code — which includes the entire charitable sector, as well as churches, mosques, and synagogues — from engaging in partisan political activities.
- Apr 20, 2017
CLC General Counsel Larry Noble spoke on NPR regarding Ivanka Trump's conflicts of interest regarding her brand.
- Apr 18, 2017
The Iowa legislature sent a strict voter ID bill to the governor’s desk last week. If the governor signs the bill, which he is widely expected to do, Iowa will be the first state in 2017 to pass a new law that burdens the right to vote. But it likely won’t be the last.
- Apr 14, 2017
Imagine for a moment that a presidential candidate benefited from a $1 million donation made anonymously by a shell company explicitly created to mask the identity of the donor. Also imagine that the government agency responsible for policing premeditated campaign finance violations like this was nowhere to be found...
- Apr 11, 2017
CLC Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting Program Gerry Hebert joined a panel of experts for a discussion and debate on current election law issues and controversies, including: the constitutional status of racial and political gerrymandering; ballot access issues, such as voter ID laws, registration requirements and early voting; campaign finance practices like dark money, disclosure requirements and the consequences of Citizens United; and the aftereffects of Shelby County v. Holder.
- Apr 9, 2017
HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver dedicated a segment to one of the most serious threats to our democracy. Oliver’s segment on gerrymandering highlighted how partisan manipulation of district lines, or partisan gerrymandering, harms the ability of Americans to have their vote count in elections.
States Can Require Financial Disclosure by Presidential Candidates to Safeguard Electoral Transparency (Take Care)Apr 6, 2017
Throughout the 2016 Election cycle, and since, there have been calls for all presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns. President Trump, despite these calls, has yet to do it.
Money, Politics, and the Crippling of the FEC: A symposium on the Federal Election Commission's arguable inability to effectively regulate money in American elections.Apr 3, 2017
On March 23, 2017, CLC President Trevor Potter delivered this speech at a symposium held at the Washington College of Law at American University and the Administrative Law Review. Read excerpts and the full speech below.
CNN's Larry Noble: We May Be Seeing, "In Real-Time," The "Collapse Of What Looks Like A Cover-Up" (Media Matters for America)Mar 30, 2017
CLC General Counsel Larry Noble spoke on CNN'Newsroom regarding President Trump's handling of the Russia leaks.
- Feb 27, 2017
“This is a position the Department of Justice has taken, and taken seriously, for many years,” says Danielle Lang of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., representing the plaintiffs. “It’s extraordinarily disappointing to see them make this 180 [degree turn].”
- Feb 24, 2017
Let's broaden this out. I've got Larry Noble with me. He's the General Counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and former General Counsel for the Federal Election Commission...
Larry, let me just ask you. Because the president has tweeted about this; and in tweeting about it sort of acknowledging that it happened, but comes down on the leaks.
He tweets: "The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security "leakers" that have permeated our government for a long time. They can't even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on the US."
So, he's fixating, Larry -- I want you to just respond to the fact that what he's fixating on is the leak.
- Feb 13, 2017
CLC General Counsel Larry Noble spoke on WUWM regarding President Trump's appearance and potential for conflicts of interest.
- Feb 10, 2017
CLC General Counsel Larry Noble appeared on a CNN panel with Don Lemon to discuss President Trump's unethical Nordstrom tweet.
- Feb 3, 2017
Ruth Greenwood with the Campaign Legal Center said Whitford v. Gill is significant because it establishes a clear-cut way to determine if a state's maps are gerrymandered. She said the fact that Wisconsin's maps were drawn in a way to unfairly benefit the party was enough for the three-judge panel to call it unconstitutional.
- Jan 27, 2017
Campaign Legal Center General Counsel Larry Noble appeared on CNN to discuss the appearance of conflict regarding PResident Trump and the increased fees at Mar-A-Lago resort.
- Jan 18, 2017
While Washington and social media are all atwitter over the STOCK Act and the confirmation hearing of Health and Human Services secretary nominee, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), it is a provision in the House ethics rules that should receive attention today.
Why one expert says Tom Price’s stock deals ‘may very well have’ broken the law (The Washington Post)Jan 18, 2017
That means President-elect Donald Trump's pick to be health and human services secretary “may very well have” violated a 2012 law, the Stock Act, as well as other House ethics rules, said Larry Noble, general counsel for the nonpartisan ethics watchdog, the Campaign Legal Center, and former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission. Price is being grilled by Democratic senators Wednesday on this and his plans to play a major role in dismantling the Affordable Care Act.
- Jan 15, 2017
CLC General Counsel Larry Noble appeared on CNN to discuss how Trump handing over his business to Jared Kushner is not enough to resolve his conflicts of interest.
Jeff Sessions says he handled these civil rights cases. He barely touched them. (The Washington Post)
Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions is trying to mislead his Senate colleagues, and the country, into believing he is a champion for civil rights. We are former Justice Department civil rights lawyers who worked on the civil rights cases that Sessions cites as evidence for this claim, so we know: The record isn’t Sessions’s to burnish. We won’t let the nominee misstate his civil rights history to get the job of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.
- Jan 11, 2017
CLC General Counsel Larry Noble spoke on a panel addressing President-elect Donald Trump's conflicts of interest following Trump's press conference.
- Jan 11, 2017
There is a good reason that the Justice Department has always taken the position that presidents should abide by the provisions of the Ethics in Government Act, even though they are exempted from it for constitutional reasons: Doing that saves the president and his administration a lot of potential troubles.
- Jan 10, 2017
CLC Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting Program Gerry Hebert appeared on MSNBC to challenge the civil rights record of Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions.
Why the NAACP and former Colleagues say Jeff Sessions is Unfit to Serve As Attorney General (Real News Network)Jan 8, 2017
CLC Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting Program Gerry Hebert was interviewed for a segment on the Real News Network following an NAACP protest against the nomination of Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General.
Former Colleague of Jeff Sessions Says Trump's Pick Unqualified to be Attorney General (Real News Network)Jan 5, 2017
CLC Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting Program Gerry Hebert was interviewed for a segment on The Real News Network regarding his personal experience with President-elect Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions.
- Jan 4, 2017
CLC Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting Program Gerry Hebert appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show to speak out against President-elect Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions.
- Dec 20, 2016
"By definition, it's a conflict of interest," says Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and current president of the Campaign Legal Center, a government ethics watchdog group.
- Dec 9, 2016
"The problem is, when you don't have your member of Congress show up to vote, you don't have representation in Congress," said Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center.
- Dec 7, 2016
For details on the situation at hand, we turn to Meredith McGehee, a strategic adviser at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit representing the public interests to protect democracy.
- Dec 7, 2016
Larry Noble, general counsel with the Campaign Legal Center, cited this kind of scenario as a problem. "They are saying that of course we'll stay at the Trump hotel. We're going to see the president and when we see the president, we want to say you have a wonderful hotel there,” he told Fox News. “So he's really profiting from this. It really creates real conflicts of interest.”
- Dec 3, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump has promised to leave his businesses in total, but ethics attorneys to former presidents say there are still problems if he leaves it all to his children. As the head of a business empire that spans at least 20 countries, Trump could be in violation of several conflict of interest rules, if he cannot separate the businessman from the president. It all has to do with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which states the president cannot accept gifts or payments from foreign entities. Larry Noble, a lawyer serving both Republican and Democratic presidents, walks through the emoluments clause and other potential areas of conflict for the future president, including enforcement of those laws.
- Nov 30, 2016Overturning "Citizens United" and "Shelby v. Holder" will require ONLY ONE Supreme Court Justice to change his mind. In part 3 of our series, Gerald Hebert shares with us which one he thinks it might be.
Federal Court: Wisconsin's GOP-Drawn Legislative Districts Unconstitutional (Wisconsin Public Radio)Nov 23, 2016
Campaign Legal Center Attorney Ruth Greenwood, one of the lawyers who represented the Democratic plaintiffs in this case, said it was historic for a court to overturn a legislative map in a partisan gerrymandering case.
Why I told the Senate that Jeff Sessions thought civil rights groups were ‘un-American’ (The Washington Post)Nov 22, 2016
I was a young lawyer in the civil rights division at the Justice Department in 1981 when I first encountered Jeff Sessions. At the time, Sessions was the new U.S. attorney for Alabama. I met him while I was handling a major voting rights case in Mobile, and I relayed a rumor I’d heard: A federal judge there had allegedly referred to a civil rights lawyer as “a traitor to his race” for taking on black clients. Sessions responded, “Well, maybe he is.”
How President Trump could use the White House to enrich himself and his family (The Washington Post)Nov 18, 2016
For the past 40 years, every president has placed his personal investments and assets in a blind trust while in the White House, or has sold everything and held cash equivalents. President-elect Donald Trump has made it clear that he does not plan to set up such a trust, which would require that his company be run by an outsider who has had no previous business relationship with Trump, and that there be virtually no communication between the outside trustee and Trump or his family during his administration.
Corte de Texas falla en contra de Larry Merchant, ex presidente de la mesa educativa del Distrito Escolar de Houston (Univision)Nov 16, 2016
The Campaign Legal Center's Danielle Lang appeared on Univision Houston on November 16, 2016. Watch here.
Danielle Lang joined the Campaign Legal Center in October 2015. She litigates a wide range of voting rights matters before state and federal courts.
- Nov 16, 2016
"It should be that the Legislature – the number swings back and forth depending on what the voters want," Greenwood said. "Whereas at the moment, it doesn't seem to matter what the voters want. We just continually get around 60 members of the state Legislature being Republicans."
- Nov 10, 2016
Trevor Potter, former head of the Federal Election Commission, says that represents a big conflict of interest for the president-elect.
"You're going to have a situation where the president appoints the head of GSA, and then the president's most visible asset in Washington is potentially subject to negotiation with that person over the terms of the lease and any changes in the lease," Potter says.
- Nov 7, 2016
Anyone looking at the 2016 presidential election can see American democracy is in trouble.
The public is feeling the direct impact of a broken campaign finance system. As many as 80 percent of voters believe the federal government – and the entire U.S. political system – is out of touch with the average citizens it is meant to represent.
Given the challenges at the federal level, the momentum for democracy reform is now in the states, from the grassroots level. Democracy reformers are taking steps to adopt new policies and proposals that would counter the corrupting power of money in state and local governments.
- Nov 1, 2016
On November 1, 2016, CLC President Trevor Potter delivered this speech at the College of Charleston's Annual Political Science Convocation regarding the issues of big money in politics.
- Oct 31, 2016
On Monday, Oct. 24, the Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusiveness (OADI) hosted Beloit College’s second #GetWoke panel of the semester. The session took place in the Richardson Auditorium at 7 p.m. and tackled the complicated nature of voting, particularly the controversial circumstances accompanying the 2016 election.
- Oct 28, 2016
The Campaign Legal Center is trying to get the Federal Election Commission to enforce its own rules.
- Oct 25, 2016
According to The Sentencing Project, about 6.1 million Americans are not eligible to vote because of a felony conviction. While some of those people are still in prison, nearly 4 million have completed their sentences, but remain barred from participating in the American electoral process.
- Oct 19, 2016
This year's presidential election will be the first in a half-century without the significant presence of federal observers at polling places. That's because in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, and when the court wiped out that section, the statute that provided for election observers went, too.
- Sep 26, 2016
The Campaign Legal Center looked at whether the latest FCC’s action to illuminate sponsorship identification, the Online Public Inspection Files (OPIF), lives up to reasonable expectations of transparency, including whether the database is in fact a useful tool for public transparency.
- Sep 20, 2016
A federal judge in Corpus Christi this afternoon ruled that the State of Texas has not removed all of the barriers to voting which were included in the state's Voter ID law that was declared unconstitutional by an appeals court.
"The judge ruled that Texas on its own action has changed the language of the court's order in many of its educational materials to the voters," said Danielle Lang, Voting Rights Counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, one of the private advocacy groups which, along with the US Department of Justice, accused Texas of violating the terms of a settlement the state agreed to last month.
- Sep 20, 2016
Harris County officials are confident the latest judicial development regarding the Texas Voter ID Law will not have a big impact on the November 8th election.
- Sep 20, 2016A four month long investigation by NBC Bay Area found that the Federal Elections Commission often little to nothing to create, regulate or enforce elections laws. NBC Bay Area Senior Investigative Reporter Stephen Stock reports in a story that first aired on Sept. 19, 2016. (Published Monday, Sept. 19, 2016)
Deadlock: FEC Commissioners Say They’re Failing to Investigate Campaign Violations (NBC 4 Washington)Sep 20, 2016
If a campaign cheats during this election season, chances are high it’ll never be investigated. That’s according to some of the very Federal Election Commissioners tasked with enforcing the law, who call the agency “dysfunctional” and “broken.”
- Sep 16, 2016
Meredith McGehee talked about rules and regulations governing disclosure of campaign donations, as well as the tax and personal financial records of the presidential candidates.
- Sep 15, 2016
There are reports that Trump doesn’t really want to win the White House. A new examination of his international business dealings around the world, however, does provide one reason why he might want to be victorious in November: to boost his family’s wealth.
Also documents released to The Guardian appear to show Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker engaged in illegal campaign activity. We discuss the matter with the Campaign Legal Center’s Brendan Fischer. And later, we break down a government watchdog report that has some surprising news about at least one component of the national security state that is shrinking.
Leaked Docs Reveal Scott Walker's Illegal 2012 Fundraising, GOP Operatives Faking Dem 'Fraud' (The Brad Blog)Sep 15, 2016
Attorney Brendan Fischer, Associate Counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in D.C., joins us to help unpack the breathtaking smoking guns revealed by these newly-disclosed documents, after the state's probe of Walker was shut down by the very same elected Justices on the state Supreme Court whose elections were funded by the exact same corporate millionaire and billionaire donors and illegal mechanisms revealed by the quashed documents. Yes, it makes my head spin too.
- Sep 15, 2016
We now have a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a broken campaign finance system.
The Guardian this week published 1,500 previously unreleased emails and financial documents leaked from a now-halted investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his allies.
- Sep 13, 2016
Campaign Legal Center Associate Counsel Brendan Fischer appeared on WHNT News 19 to discuss 501(c)(4) organizations.
- Sep 13, 2016
Rachelle Akuffo and CLC Policy Director Meredith McGehee talked about transparency and conflicts on interested regarding the 2016 presidential candidates.
- Aug 30, 2016
Even if everything the Associated Press has reported so far about the link between donations to the Clinton Foundation and access to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is confirmed—including the most damning allegations—nothing that has been revealed to date is likely ever to be prosecuted.
- Aug 29, 2016
The California Assembly should vote Monday to pass Senate Bill 1107, which would improve citizens’ ability to engage in the democratic process by empowering local governments to establish citizen-funded elections.
- Aug 27, 2016
Deputy Executive Director Tara Malloy appeared on NJTV News weighing in on New Jersey's Election Law Enforcement Commission.
“Your campaign finance laws are only as good as your enforcement and your enforcement will depend entirely on commissioners or officials on the enforcement agency,” said Campaign Legal Center Deputy Executive Director Tara Malloy.
Malloy represents the Campaign Legal Center, a pro campaign finance reform organization based in Washington D.C. She says it’s not an atypical situation. In a sense, the agencies are created by the officials who are then subject to the laws.
- Aug 9, 2016
On August 9, 2016 CLC Policy Director Meredith McGehee spoke at NCSL's Legislative Summit on the “Campaign Finance: What It All Means” session.
- Aug 3, 2016
Last week, a federal appeals court struck down North Carolina’s omnibus voter suppression law — a law so jam-packed with voting restrictions targeted at poor, minority communities that its moniker was the “monster law.”
The decision was handed down alongside a spate of other federal decisions in the past two weeks blocking voter restrictions and voter ID requirements in Wisconsin, Texas, North Dakota and Kansas. Some of these laws had been rushed through and passed following the U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating 2013 blow to the Voting Rights Act, which for 50 years had protected voters from discriminatory laws like poll taxes, literacy tests and the like.
- Jul 14, 2016
The role of corporate money has become so obscene that in the 2016 election, a corporationnot financially supporting political conventions is apparently a newsworthy case of “man bites dog. But given the longstanding federal ban on corporate support for nominating conventions, why are corporations in the business of paying for our political conventions at all? That’s the subject of the Campaign Legal Center’s report, Funding the Presidential Nominating Conventions: How a Trickle of Private Money Turned into a Flood. Over the years, the Federal Election Commission has shredded the laws that explicitly ban corporate spending on conventions. Now, corporate interests and wealthy individuals gain political access and influence over government officials by spending tens of millions of dollars to fund nominating conventions. The public is rightfully discouraged and disgusted by how they are being shut out of their democracy. Public funding of the conventions was the right idea that was undermined by the FEC and eventually Congress.
- Jul 5, 2016
Photo by Sarah Holm/The Chautauquan Daily
On July 4th, 2016, CLC President Trevor Potter delivered this speech at The Chautauqua Institution, a non-profit organization. It is a historic lakeside community dedicated to the exploration of the best in human values and the enrichment of life.
- Jun 30, 2016
Another Trump worry could be money, as implausible as it sounds. Currently, he is well behind Hillary Clinton insofar as money in the bank. And there have been questions about the money he has given to his campaign: are they loans or gifts? Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center has the answers.
- Jun 28, 2016
Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell on eleven counts of bribery-related charges, holding that his trial proceeded under an overly expansive reading of the “official act” element of the federal bribery statute. The Court’s remand order leaves the door open for a retrial under a narrower standard, but all in all, it was a good day for the governor and a bad day for public-corruption prosecutions. Mostly, though, it was a bad day for Americans, as eight Supreme Court Justices all but told us that we must tolerate some level of “pay to play” politics in democratic governance.
- Jun 17, 2016
Campaign Legal Center associate counsel Brendan Fischer appeared on The Big Picture to discuss a Koch-backed bill to lessen disclosure of dark money donors from the IRS.
- May 19, 2016
Some time in the next few months, the Supreme Court will have a chance to contemplate exactly what it wrought with the now-infamous 2010 Citizens United decision.
The faulty assumptions in that landmark 2010 ruling are on display in a Wisconsin case that state prosecutors asked the high court to review last month – and which provides a sobering look at deregulation in action.
- May 17, 2016
Andrew Cockburn’s analysis of the “election-industrial complex” [“Down the Tube,” Letter from Washington, April] argues, correctly, that the rise of super PACs has created a class of consultants paid handsomely to produce TV ads — often with no impact on election results. But we can’t lose sight of the many other ways in which big money influences candidates and corrupts our political system.
- May 5, 2016
Trevor Potter was the commentator and moderator at the Plutocrats United event hosted by CLC and cosponsored by ACS and UCDC law, Professor Richard L. Hasen gave a presetation on his book Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections, followed by a Q&A discussion between Trevor and Rick.
- Apr 18, 2016
Campaign Legal Center deputy executive director Paul Ryan spoke at the City of San Diego Ethics Commission “Money in Politics Forum” (April 18, 2016)
- Apr 12, 2016
Christian Berg and Meredith McGehee talked about the role of money in U.S. politics, efforts to reform the campaign finance system, and the impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.
- Apr 11, 2016
The 2016 presidential election is on track to becoming the most expensive campaign in U.S. history. But the the Federal Election Commission, charged with regulating how that campaign money is raised and spent, may be the least understood and most ineffective agency of them all.
On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams sits down with three people who have all been part of the FEC. They explain that from the start, the agency had a built-in partisan divide that made decision making difficult.
CLC President Trevor Potter talks about the gridlock of FEC Commissioners and how they are beholden to the party leaders that chose them. Potter also mentions the move of a partisan divide to an ideological divide between the Commissioners.
- Apr 6, 2016
Trevor Potter has been working on campaign finance issues since 1985, when he joined the staff of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. A frequent guest on Bill Moyers’s programs, he has served as the chairman of the Federal Election Commission and advised Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), on the drafting of the last major campaign finance reform legislation, the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Most famously, Potter served as Stephen Colbert’s lawyer in an elaborate sendup of super PACs that the satirist conducted during the last presidential campaign cycle.
- Apr 5, 2016
The United States Supreme Court upheld voting rights in a redistricting case that would have disenfranchised many people from voting, says Danielle Lang, senior counsel at Campaign Legal Center.
- Mar 29, 2016
Danielle Lang, legal fellow of the Campaign Legal Center, speaks to KUT News regarding CLC's efforts to halt enforcement of Texas' Voter ID law in order to preserve Texas voters' access to the polls.
- Mar 21, 2016
With the presidential primaries in full swing, outside groups regularly outspend candidates' national campaigns in advertising and advocacy. Super PACs and "dark money" groups are running ever-increasing numbers of television ads - without having to reveal to viewers the sources of their money.
- Mar 17, 2016
Deputy Executive Director Paul S. Ryan participated in a podcast with the National Constitution Center on the constitutional and political impact of Citizens United. They were joined with We the People to explore the constitutional landscape after Citizens United and to assess the decision’s impact on the 2016 election.
- Mar 1, 2016
On February 11, CLC Policy Director Meredith McGehee spoke at the National Archive's panel on "Finance on Political Campaigns." Joining in the discussion for were former Senators Bill Brock (R-TN), Bennett Johnston (D-LA), Tom Petri (R-WI) and Tim Roemer (D-IN).
To watch the video, click here.
- Feb 10, 2016
As 2015 came to a close, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) — the agency charged with enforcing federal campaign finance laws — finally fined "Restore Our Future" super PAC $50,000 for violating laws restricting coordination with candidate campaigns, in response to a complaint filed by the Campaign Legal Center in 2012. Not only did it take the FEC nearly four years to resolve the matter, but the fine amounted to a slap on the wrist for the more than $4 million in illegal spending by the super PAC.
- Feb 3, 2016
On February 3, 2016, Campaign Legal Center Deputy Executive Director Paul S. Ryan submitted testimony to the House Elections Standing Committee regarding S.B. 638. The bill amends the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA) improving the definition of "independent expenditures." However, "the numerous carve outs and exceptions to this definition are so extensive that they render any improvements made by the new definition meaningless."
Jim Renacci's bipartisan Federal Election Commission reform effort is sorely needed (Cleveland Plain Dealer)Jan 29, 2016
Is it a waste of taxpayer money for an agency to exist, but so seriously fail in its mission that its own chair described it as "worse than dysfunctional?" Yes, it is—and American taxpayers deserve better. The Federal Election Commission is failing to fulfill even the basic functions of its job.
- Jan 21, 2016
Remarks by Trevor Potter, President of the Campaign Legal Center, delivered today at the Brookings Institution’s Campaign Finance Solutions Summit, supported by Issue One. Potter is a Non-Resident Fellow at Brookings and a Senior Advisor to Issue One.
I come before you today with both good news and bad news. Both are the same news, and that is: We have been here before.
109 years ago this month, Congress passed one of the first major laws geared toward reducing the corrupting influence of big money on American politics. The Tillman Act of 1907 banned corporate contributions to candidates for federal office, and was enacted in response to a crisis of money in politics that has many similarities with the one we confront at this summit today.
- Jan 11, 2016
In these days, when there seems to be almost limitless information available at the tap of your finger, what would drive anyone to try to hide information that is required to be in plain sight?
- Jan 8, 2016
During consideration of the 2015 Omnibus budget bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) unsuccessfully tried to insert a rider to eliminate coordinated spending limits for political parties. He lost because of opposition from an unlikely coalition -- most (though not all) Democrats and some Tea Party Republicans who don't trust their party's establishment. Sen. McConnell made this move under the guise of "strengthening the political parties but in reality, it would have provided yet another avenue for big money to enter into American campaigns.
- Nov 21, 2015
We wanted to bring to your attention the op-ed below which ran in The Washington Post over the weekend. It was written by Campaign Legal Center General Counsel Larry Noble who questions the claims by a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC that it can legally coordinate with the Clinton Campaign.
- Nov 18, 2015
A remarkable eighty percent of Americans – both Republicans and Democrats -- believe that the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United should be overturned. Much of the public outrage and energy around undoing the damage done by the Court’s campaign finance jurisprudence has focused on amending the Constitution. Amending the constitution however is no small feat and the barriers are significant. This backgrounder, prepared by CLC for Issue One, examines the procedural hurdles and potential shortcomings of such a course.
- Nov 17, 2015
Opponents of the disclosure of political spending have been playing fast and loose with the truth. This FAQ, prepared by CLC for Issue One, sorts the myths from the facts when it comes to the laws and regulation of ‘dark money’ groups and their spending in federal elections.
- Nov 12, 2015
The Campaign Legal Center and Issue One jointly released a report which details specific solutions to reduce the power of money in politics and restore faith in public institutions. The report and accompanying website provide a comprehensive overview of how reforms have been implemented across the country and outlines best practices for legislators and advocates enacting change in their states and local communities. Coming on the heels of recent ballot initiative victories in Seattle and Maine, Blueprints for Democracy is a timely compilation of both the support for and feasibility of effective money-in-politics reform.
The Money in Politics Disaster - Video of Trevor Potter's Remarks at the Independent Sector Annual ConferenceNov 6, 2015
"We are at a point in American history where our political process is characterized by division, disagreement and polarization. In these circumstances, it’s easy to believe that there are few, if any, political issues left on which an overwhelming number of Americans — both Republicans and Democrats — agree. In fact, this is not the case: a Bloomberg poll conducted only last month found that on one of the country’s most pressing problems, there’s unrivaled bipartisan consensus. On what issue can 80 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats find common ground? Believe it or not, the answer is money in politics!
On October 28, 2015, CLC President and General Counsel Trevor Potter delivered the following remarks at the Independent Sector Annual Conference, as part of the "Red, White, and on the Brink" plenary session. Click here to watch a recording of the address and plenary session.
Trevor Potter's Remarks at Harvard Law School: "Legal Rubble: Money and Politics in the Age of Citizens United"Nov 2, 2015
"I need to describe what I see as the four basic failures of the Citizens United decision—failures of understanding and imagination. These result in the collision of abstract legal theory with reality. This is a collision that a Court more familiar with political practices, administrative process, and the difficulties of legislating might have predicted and avoided."
On October 9, 2015, CLC President and General Counsel Trevor Potter addressed Harvard Law School students and faculty as part of a series on election law. Click here to watch a recording of the lecture and subsequent discussion.
- Oct 30, 2015
On October 28, 2015, CLC President Trevor Potter addressed Independent Sector's 2015 National Conference in Miami, Florida. His remarks - "The Money in Politics Disaster" - were delivered as part of the conference's “Red, White, and on the Brink” plenary session.
To read "The Money in Politics Disaster", click here.
- Oct 30, 2015
Dennis Hastert’s professional legacy, like his personal one, is in tatters. His time on Capitol Hill helped to undermine the reputation of the body he led as Speaker and the reverberations are still being felt today. The so-called “Hastert Rule” is inextricably linked to the chaos currently engulfing the House Republican caucus and the blind eye he turned toward ethical abuses continues to dog his fellow Representatives. These legacies have damaged the House as an institution but can and should be repaired by the new Speaker.
- Oct 26, 2015
On October 9, 2015, CLC President and General Counsel Trevor Potter addressed Harvard Law School students and faculty as part of a lecture and discussion series on election law.
- Sep 17, 2015
On June 25, 2015, Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Jim Renacci (R-OH), John Carney (D-DE) and Lou Barletta (R-PA) introduced H.R. 2931, “Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act,” a bill that seeks to restructure the FEC.
- Jul 8, 2015
Speech by CLC President Trevor Potter to the Public Policy Forum of Crested Butte, July 8, 2015
- Jul 8, 2015
With Outside/In host Roger Kahn, Trevor Potter discussed his Policy Policy Forum discussion titled: "The Money In Politics Disaster: Where Do We Go From Here?"
The Rise and Fall of Mario Biaggi: Reminder of Why the Illegal Gratuities Statute Should be Revived (The Huffington Post)Jul 6, 2015
Many readers probably overlooked the recent obituary of disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mario Biaggi (D-NY). But the rise and fall of this former policeman who died at the age of 97 serves as an object lesson for aspiring politicians and makes a compelling case for resurrecting one of the most useful tools to fight political corruption--the illegal gratuities statute.
- Jun 22, 2015
At long last, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to publicly declare today what has been obvious to everyone: He is a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. His announcement will bring to an end his awkward charade of simultaneously claiming he has not yet decided if he is a candidate while raising tens-of-millions of dollars to support his candidacy, employing a sizeable campaign staff, travelling to early primary states and fundraising events and giving campaign speeches and attending events here and abroad. According to press reports, as part of this operation, he or his associates set up and control his Right to Rise Super PAC, whose purpose is to support the Bush candidacy. Bush has headlined dozens of fundraisers for the Super PAC, and the pace of its fundraising was initially so brisk that the group reportedly asked donors to limit their contributions to $1,000,000. He has even already changed campaign managers for this supposedly nonexistent campaign.
Charles Fried and Trevor Potter Respond to Wall Street Journal Editorial Attacking CLC’s Work (The Wall Street Journal)Jun 16, 2015
On June 9, The Wall Street Journal editorial board criticized the work of the Campaign Legal Center in trying to ensure that the appropriate agencies enforce federal campaign finance laws. Charles Fried, former Solicitor General under Ronald Reagan and current CLC board member, and Trevor Potter, CLC President, responded with letters to the editor correcting the editorial board’s mischaracterization of CLC and mis-statement of the law.
- Jun 4, 2015
In my decade-plus as an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), a nonpartisan legal organization, we’ve filed dozens of administrative complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against those we believed to be violating federal campaign finance laws. Even in the best of times, we’ve waited in excess of 2 years for the FEC to resolve our complaints. But things at the FEC have gotten much, much worse in recent years.
- Jun 1, 2015
Even though the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) has done much over the past seven years to bolster the integrity and credibility of the House ethics process, some members of the House have resented the office since its inception. Created after a series of scandals shamed the House, OCE is charged with determining if an allegation of an ethics violation by a House member or staffer warrants further investigation by the House Ethics Committee. OCE has an established record of fair investigations and bipartisan cooperation that have made House members wary of condemning OCE publicly. However, their surrogates and white-collar defense attorneys have attacked the office with increased vehemence. Take, for example, the most recent salvo against OCE.
The Diane Rehm Show: Paralysis At The Federal Election Commission And What Can Be Done About It with Trevor PotterMay 5, 2015
Election finance experts predict the 2016 presidential race could see a record $10 billion in campaign spending. Much of the growth in spending is coming from outside groups untethered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. But the head of the Federal Election Commission, tasked with keeping watch over campaign finance, says the agency is in a state of extreme dysfunction. She fears the FEC won’t be able to curb 2016 abuses. Many Republicans say the concerns are exaggerated. We explore the role of the FEC and what changes – if any – are needed.
- Apr 7, 2015
When Congress returns from recess next week, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), who resigned after Politico raised questions about his mileage reimbursements, will not return with it...
- Mar 24, 2015
Sen. Ted Cruz’s official launch of a campaign makes him the first and only formally declared candidate in the 2016 presidential election...
- Feb 24, 2015
In the world of electoral politics, all eyes already are on the 2016 presidential race. Though no one is admitting they are a candidate, reports are written daily about near-constant travel, fundraising and campaign machine building by prospective 2016 presidential candidates. Former Governor Jeb Bush held a $100,000-a-ticket fundraiser in New York earlier this month at the home of billionaire financier Henry Kravis, and during the first quarter of 2015 reportedly plans to raise $100 million in unlimited contributions to his super PAC. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is also pulling unlimited contributions into a super PAC-like 527 organization, has already created a campaign-like ad, and even opened an office in Iowa. Bush and Walker are not alone — more than a dozen other prospective 2016 presidential candidates are engaged in similar activities.
- Jan 21, 2015
The Chinese government hacked into U.S. defense systems. What makes Americans think that the Chinese — or the Russians, the Iranians or other foreign interests — are not also hacking into U.S. elections?
- Jan 21, 2015
It’s been five years since the Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United decision. The ruling gave rise to a complicated mess of super PACs, dark money, and “coordinated non-coordinated expenditures” — a world that likely surprised even the Supreme Court...
- Jan 21, 2015
The national elections since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — two midterms and one presidential — demonstrate a gaping disconnect between the justices’ reasoning in the opinion and the reality of how campaigns operate...
- Dec 31, 2014
Bill Moyers’ wrapped up 2014 in Money & Politics with a half-dozen brief commentaries from experts on the “Most Undercovered Stories” of the year...
- Dec 31, 2014
Bill Moyers’ wrapped up 2014 in Money & Politics with a half-dozen brief commentaries from experts on the “Most Undercovered Stories” of the year...
Why Participation at the Federal Election Commission Matters, Despite the Agency's Dysfunction (The Huffington Post)Dec 17, 2014
We are sometimes asked why the Campaign Legal Center even bothers dealing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) anymore -- except to sue it for undermining the letter and the spirit of the laws passed by Congress...
- Dec 16, 2014
When I speak at law schools, I am always asked about the Colbert Super PAC “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” and its sibling 501(c)(4), “Colbert Super PAC Shhh.” Almost every time, someone asks, “How did you and Stephen Colbert plan the story line of his coverage of money in politics?”
- Dec 12, 2014
If the Republicans, some Democrats and President Obama get their way, we will soon have a $1.1 trillion omnibus funding bill (referred to as "cromnibus") that will fund the government for nine months...
- Nov 26, 2014
Broadcast stations made money hand-over-fist this year on political advertisements even though it was a non-presidential election year. Spending on TV ads in federal and gubernatorial races topped $1 billion, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.
Complex Campaign Finance Laws are Product of Loophole Seeking Players, Inactive FEC and Hostile Supreme Court (The Washington Examiner)Nov 4, 2014
In a recent op-ed, Joe Trotter, Media Manager for the Center for Competitive Politics argues that a chart prepared by the Campaign Legal Center that broadly summarizes the disclosure requirements for political ads shows that the current campaign finance rules are too complex...
- Nov 3, 2014
Every two years, in the run-up to national elections, the usual suspects begin to beat the drum about the supposed scourge of voter fraud...
- Nov 3, 2014
Imagine you win a big verdict at trial. But then, when the decision is appealed, you find out the judges who will be hearing your appeal took contributions for their campaigns from your opponents in the lawsuit...
"Money Talks: Free Speech, Political Action Committees and the Future of Campaign Finance Regulation" with Trevor PotterNov 3, 2014
Campaign Finance Regulation Panelists talked about the complexities and transparency issues associated with campaign financing. They focused on outside funding of campaigns since the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Other topics included the Federal Election Commission (FEC) appointee process.
- Oct 22, 2014
Remedial action is necessary if the U.S. Senate has any interest in becoming relevant again to our nation's political discourse...
- Oct 14, 2014
"... [A]s far back as the Radio Act of 1927 and continuing with Section 317 of the Communications Act of 1934 there has been an unvarying requirement that all matter broadcast by any station for a valuable consideration is to be announced as paid for or furnished, and by whom." -- Federal Communications Commission, Sponsorship Identification Rules, 1975
Want to know who is attempting to influence your vote?
- Oct 14, 2014
The Federal Election Campaign Act is far from a perfect system. But the reason for its deficiencies lies not in its drafting, but rather in its repeated dismemberment by the Supreme Court. The court has been as much a player in the field of campaign finance as Congress.
- Sep 19, 2014
The constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision came up short in the Senate. Such things are no easy lift. But while it failed to garner the supermajority vote, the Senate's consideration and debate provided an avenue to keep people who are appalled by the current campaign finance system energized and engaged.
California’s FPPC Provides Example for Dysfunctional Federal Agencies to Follow - Trevor Potter’s 40th Anniversary Keynote AddressSep 19, 2014
On September 17th, Trevor Potter delivered the keynote address at the 40th anniversary of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Potter praised the outstanding work of the FPPC and compared it to its dysfunctional federal cousin, the Federal Election Commission – also created 40 years ago in the wake of Watergate. Potter reviewed how we arrived in this Wild West era of campaign finance and suggested ways to fix it and restore the public’s faith in its elected officials.
Speech: Keynote Address at the California Fair Political Practices Commission 40th Anniversary EventSep 17, 2014
This year marks a milestone anniversary for the FPPC and California and for the nation. Forty years ago the nation experienced the end of the Watergate scandal with Richard Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency. The public outrage over the unethical and illegal conduct uncovered in the Watergate investigation resulted in the enactment of reforms at both the federal and state levels. The FPPC and its federal counterpart—the Federal Election Commission (FEC), also created in 1974—were a direct response to the nation’s recognition of the corrosive danger of large, or undisclosed, sums of money in politics...
To read the full text of the speech, click here.
- Aug 12, 2014
For many years, opponents of restrictions on the role of money in politics have held out the state of Virginia to legitimize their opposition to campaign finance reform. A state with few restrictions on money in campaigns, not much disclosure, and few ethics laws, Virginia has been heralded by reform opponents as showing what politics at the national level could look like if the federal campaign finance laws were repealed. The picture they painted was of patrician politicians above it all, incorruptible by plebian concerns of money, legislating for the Commonwealth on purely ideological grounds...
- Jun 18, 2014
It’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court makes faulty assumptions about things like independent political spending when it decides cases that fundamentally undermine our democracy and the public’s faith in it. A new report on the reality of such independent spending highlights just how far the Court has missed the mark.
- Jun 3, 2014
On this month's edition of Washington Watch, Congressman Walter B. Jones is joined by Trevor Potter, the founding president and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Congressman Jones and Mr. Potter discuss the role of money in politics and potential avenues of reform to the current campaign finance system.
- Jun 2, 2014
On June 2nd, Trevor Potter delivered a speech at the Citizens Congress 2014: Restoring Equality in Our Democracy in San Luis Obispo, California. Potter criticizes not only the amount of money spent in federal campaigns, but also where the money comes from and how it is raised. Potter also proposes a system with full participation, with solutions to some of the problems in the current broken system.
- May 1, 2014
On April 30, Trevor Potter testified at a Senate Rules Committee hearing, “Dollars and Sense: How Undisclosed Money and Post-McCutcheon Campaign Finance Will Affect the 2014 Elections and Beyond.”
The hearing was chaired by Sen. Angus King (I-ME). Other witnesses included retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Federal Election Commission Vice Chair Ann Ravel and the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein.
To read Potter’s full written testimony, click here.
To read the testimony of all witnesses, click here.
To watch the full hearing on C-SPAN, click here.
- Apr 22, 2014Were you impressed over the winter when hotelier George Tsunis, nominated to be U.S. Ambassador to Norway, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he had never been to Norway and confused a moderate political party with a “fringe” party?
Were you proud to be an American when the responses by the nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, “The Bold and the Beautiful” producer Colleen Bell, were universally described as stammering and that the other nominees for Argentina and Iceland were labeled similarly unimpressive?
Even the nominee to head up the U.S. Embassy in one of the world’s most sensitive super powers, longtime Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), volunteered, “I’m no real expert on China.”
- Apr 22, 2014
Lecture by CLC President Trevor Potter to the Wilson School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University, April 22, 2014.
- Apr 14, 2014The problem isn’t that members of Congress travel too much. In fact, they probably should travel more. The issue is who pays for the travel.
The usual defense of privately financed travel is that it saves taxpayer money. Think again. As any experienced Washington hand can tell you, all of us pay. And pay, and pay again. The special interests that can afford to underwrite the trips get “face time” with members of Congress and their staff. This “face time” is golden and translates into valuable access-and-influence. This, in turn, translates into skewed public policies that too often favor those who pay for the travel.
That is the reason private interests forked over more than $3.7 million for free “educational opportunities” last year, a 10-year high. It is an effective lobbying tool.
- Mar 26, 2014
This past Sunday, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by one of their editors, Hilary Krieger, asking whether "a little corruption should matter to voters." She reported that D.C. incumbent mayoral candidate Vincent Gray has won her over, despite his ethical and campaign finance challenges. And she goes on to make the case that we may have tipped too far toward concern about ethical standards for public officials at the expense of good stewardship and the ability to "getting results in a fractious system."
- Mar 13, 2014
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision so radically changed the rules of our country’s political process that updating the 50-year-old IRS regulations governing 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations has jumped from long overdue to critically important. The announcement that the IRS would finally launch a rule-making to update those regulations is welcome news. While the initial IRS proposal clearly needs work, the Campaign Legal Center is actively participating in the regulatory process to significantly improve it. But the efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Ways and Means Chairman David Camp, R-Mich., are way off base when they attempt to paint the process as a partisan witch hunt.
- Feb 11, 2014
Controversy is swirling around a number of websites that have been set up by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in recent months. The websites have URLs and headlines that imply support for named Democratic candidates for Congress. The websites also have prominent “donate” buttons. But in less prominent text, the websites indicate opposition to the named candidates and any contributions made via the websites actually go to the NRCC.
- 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.
The IRS is Doing Its Job - Or More Accurately - Contemplating Doing Its Job After Years of Dereliction (The Wall Street Journal LTE)Dec 16, 2013
Bradley A. Smith ("The Latest IRS Power Grab," op-ed, Dec. 9) asks the question: "Why is the IRS regulating political activity at all?" He attributes IRS regulation to "Democratic politicians and progressive activists" when, in fact, the IRS has long limited the extent to which many types of tax-exempt entities can engage in electoral politics. The IRS is doing its job—or more accurately—contemplating doing its job after years of dereliction. Mr. Smith attributes "three myths" to the Campaign Legal Center, but it is he who's ginned up myths.
Regarding "Myth No. 1," the Legal Center knows that 501(c)(4)s aren't "charities" and does not refer to them as such. Indeed, the Legal Center itself is tax exempt as a 501(c)(3), the tax code section covering "charities," religious and educational organizations.
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 15, 2013
At one point during the oral argument Tuesday in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, Justice Antonin Scalia remarked that he didn’t understand the legislation in question.
“This campaign finance law is so intricate that I can’t figure it out,” he said. “It might have been nice to have the, you know, the lower court tell me what the law is.”
- 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.
CLC President Potter's Opening Remarks on McCutcheon v. FEC at the National Press Club's Newsmaker Event, October 1, 2013Oct 1, 2013
While there has been much jurisprudential movement at the Supreme Court over the last five years in campaign finance cases, that movement has centered on independent expenditures—money spent by individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups to speak independently of candidates.
During this time, there has been no movement to change the almost four decades long standard that the government may limit the size of contributions to candidates and party committees, including aggregate or total federal contributions, to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.
In the McCutcheon v. FEC case, the Supreme Court will now face a challenge to the aggregate contribution limit, first upheld by the Court in Buckley in 1976.
Trevor Potter's Opening Remarks on McCutcheon v. FEC at the National Press Club's Newsmaker Event, October 1, 2013Oct 1, 2013
Remarks by CLC President Trevor Potter at the National Press Club's Newsmaker Event, October 1, 2013.
While there has been much jurisprudential movement at the Supreme Court over the last five years in campaign finance cases, that movement has centered onindependent expenditures—money spent by individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups to speak independently of candidates.
To read the full remarks, click here.
- Sep 26, 2013
In yet another display of the Texas judiciary's overt partisanship in the legal saga over Tom DeLay's alleged money laundering scheme during the 2002 Texas elections, a court of appeals overturned DeLay's conviction last Thursday.
Disappointingly -- yet perhaps unsurprisingly -- the court of appeals' decision split along partisan lines. The two Republican judges, Melissa Goodwin and David Gaultney, found that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's 2010 guilty verdict. But as Chief Justice J. Woodfin Jones (a Democrat) noted in his dissent, there was evidence from which rational jurors could find that DeLay and two of his associates illegally funneled corporate funds to candidates for Texas offices and DeLay's guilt was a decision for the jury to decide.
- Jul 18, 2013
After the elevated philosophical thoughts of Michael Sandel and David Brooks the last two mornings, I am afraid I am going to lower the tone and be crass and talk about Money---and not just any money, but Money in Politics.
- 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
- Jun 26, 2013
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, struck down core provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, invalidating the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions must seek federal approval of their voting changes under the Act. This decision is a major setback for voting rights and will have a real, detrimental impact on voters.
Without federal oversight of voting changes in the covered states, the cause of racial equality and effective participation by minority voters in our democracy is harmed in four ways:
- Jun 5, 2013
As someone who has devoted the vast majority of my professional career enforcing the Voting Rights Act, the imminent decision in the Shelby County, Alabama case will be of great interest to me. My perspective is a unique one: I spent over twenty years in the Department of Justice (most of that time enforcing the Voting Rights Act), and I have spent nearly twenty years in private solo practice representing state and local governments who have endeavored to comply with the Voting Rights Act. Moreover, of the approximately 209 state and political subdivisions that have bailed out since the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act liberalized the bailout requirements, I have represented around 95 percent of those jurisdictions.
- May 1, 2013
Four decades after the campaign finance reforms that followed Watergate, arguments over the role of money in politics seem increasingly tired and unproductive. We ought to build on the experience of recent years and consider what’s necessary for a new phase of political reform.
Reforms appear destined to fail unless they rest on three key points: They should focus not on further restricting funding for political activity but rather on broadening avenues of citizen participation; they should look beyond contributions to parties and candidates to take into account other ways that money influences politics, including through the intersection of lobbying and political funding; and they should be informed by the experiences of states and localities.
- Apr 18, 2013
Bipartisan agreements seem possible on immigration and perhaps even on guns. Could election reform be next? Is there an opportunity to move past the partisan rancor of the voting wars and modernize America's out-of-date election system?
We all know it needs improvement. Long lines on Election Day are only the most visible symptom, as some voters from Florida to Virginia to Ohio waited up to seven hours to make their voice heard in last year's election. The culprit often turns out to be the old-fashioned, paper-based registration system used across the country.
- 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.
- Jan 8, 2013
It is difficult to overstate the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, overturned or ignored the Court’s own precedents and federal, state, and local statutes that had been in place for more than 60 years. The immediate impact of Citizens United and subsequent cases was a dramatic increase in the amount that outside groups (both super PACs and certain nonprofit organizations) could raise and spend in federal elections. Given Citizen United’s exceedingly narrow definition of “corruption,” and its broad statements dismissing the concerns of those who believe that unlimited spending by well-financed interests is potentially corrupting, reformers are correct to worry about what other federal and state campaign finance laws may be invalidated in the future.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- May 23, 2012
Remarks by CLC President Trevor Potter at the The American Law Institute's 89th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., May 23, 2012.
I am often asked how, after 25 years as an election lawyer, service as an FEC Commissioner, and General Counsel to 2 presidential campaigns, did you end up as Stephen Colbert’s lawyer on late night TV. The answer is “I was lucky…”
To read the full remarks, click here.
To view video footage of the speech, click here.
- Apr 16, 2012The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United allowed them. Political candidates rely on them. And Stephen Colbert parodies them. But as a former chair of the Federal Election Commission and the lawyer behind Colbert’s super PAC — Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow — I find that most people don’t understand the role that these largely unaccountable organizations play in American politics. As the GOP primary race draws to a close, let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about groups powerful enough to evade traditional limits with a single bound.
- Mar 14, 2012
Usually Members of Congress compete with each other to claim the mantle of “pro-law-enforcement politician.” But when it comes to laws that might be used by prosecutors to hold Members of Congress accountable, the House leadership’s pro-law-enforcement stance apparently flags. That is the message being sent by its decision to strip out the anti-corruption provisions included by unanimous vote in the Senate-passed Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. These provisions should be restored in a House-Senate conference committee on the bill.
- Dec 19, 2011
On December 2, 2011, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter addressed the current state of affairs of our federal campaign finance system in a speech in Austin before the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas. The remarks recount the series of actions that brought us to where we are today and chart a path toward a remedy for a system veering toward election-by-auction. The text of the speech follow below.
I’m glad that my work as the lawyer for Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC makes introductions so easy: you can just show some of the clips of me giving legal advice on air! As that video illustrated, though, even the communications genius of Stephen Colbert cannot always make the legal intricacies of Super PACs easy. So, let me start by summarizing how we got to where we are today.
- Dec 2, 2011
On December 2, 2011, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter addressed the current state of affairs of our federal campaign finance system in a speech in Austin before the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas. The remarks recount the series of actions that brought us to where we are today and chart a path toward a remedy for a system veering toward election-by-auction.
- Oct 21, 2011
Yesterday, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter delivered the keynote address at the “Symposium on Corporate Political Spending” hosted by The Conference Board in New York. Potter offered the audience a century’s worth of historical perspective, and decades of his own experience in the field
- Sep 21, 2011
Attack ads will once again be a primary source for public information in the 2012 election. Just as the new media conglomerates are putting their pieces in place for their election teams, a new report commissioned by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission concludes that the media scene is increasingly bereft of real investigative journalism, especially at the local level.
- Sep 7, 2011
Congressional Republicans are shedding “crocodile tears” about the supposed politicization of government contracting that could result from a draft executive order requiring contractors to disclose political contributions.
Since this spring, the White House has let the leaked executive order twist slowly in the wind and done little to counter the bogus claims being made about it.
- Aug 10, 2011
Last week NBC News broke the story of a company called W Spann LLC, which was created in March, made the $1 million contribution to a Mitt Romney-supporting Super PAC Restore Our Future in April and was dissolved in July. The only human that could be linked to W Spann was the Boston attorney who signed the paperwork filed in Delaware to create the company—and she refused to disclose the identity of her client. Managers of the Manhattan office building listed as the address of W Spann had no record of a tenant by that name, but the building happened to house an office of Bain Capital, a private equity firm co-founded by Romney.
- Jul 22, 2011
There is good news and bad news today in the House's vote to defeat the amendment offered by Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to gut the funding of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The good news is that it went down to defeat with 302 Members voting against it. The bad news is that there are at least 102 Members who are totally clueless about public perception and apparently about the facts of what has been occurring in the House ethics process.
- Jun 16, 2011
The 2012 elections may still be 18 months away, but the political attack ads are already hitting the airwaves. And because the Supreme Court has now green-lighted corporations and unions to use their treasury funds to pay for ads supporting or opposing political candidates, expect to see a steady and increasing diet of attacks ads -- many run by unaccountable, anonymously funded groups.
- May 25, 2011Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has been had. "A campaign finance system that pairs corporate independent expenditures with effective disclosure has not existed before today," he confidently wrote in his majority opinion in Citizens United, the Court’s 2010 decision that freed corporations, unions and others to spend unlimited sums on electioneering.
- Mar 18, 2011
There is significant irony that deregulators, many at secretly funded entities, are battling to hide the sources of campaign spending at the very time that the tea party and other citizen activists are complaining that Congress is spending too much money and paying insufficient attention to their demands for lower levels of government spending.
The follwing opinion piece was published Politico's Arena on March 18, 2011.
- Oct 19, 2010
Too many times, the political operatives, pundits and politicians in Washington,D.C., dismiss questions about ethics as “inside baseball” and claim that nobody outside the Beltway cares. This ethics-arrow-in-quiver development is a counterargument to that jaded viewpoint
- Oct 1, 2010
Reports of the DISCLOSE Act’s death are greatly exaggerated. Certainly, the current version is unlikely to recover from again falling one vote short of the 60 needed to obtain cloture. But the upcoming election is bound to breathe new life into the legislative effort to provide the American people with information about the flood of money -- much of it completely anonymous -- that is pouring into key races. The flood comes courtesy of the Supreme Court’s shocking decision earlier this year in the Citizens United v. FEC.
Commonsense Ten, Club for Growth and the FEC’s Deregulation of Corporate Money in Politics (American Constitution Society blog)Aug 17, 2010
Recent Club for Growth and Commonsense Ten Advisory Opinion Requests to the FEC raise important questions of both substance and process. When and how is it appropriate for an administrative agency to decide not to enforce statutes and regulations that have not been invalidated by any court?
- Aug 12, 2010
Voting rights groups and Department of Justice officials are as puzzled as I am why financially strapped local governments throughout Virginia are not seeking a bailout under the Voting Rights Act. After all, last year the U.S. Supreme Court opened the bailout door as wide as it could while leaving the Voting Rights Act intact.
- Aug 10, 2010
Floridians' chance to curb partisan gerrymanders is once again in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court. After decades of partisan abuse of the redistricting process, citizens simply want the chance to vote on two ballot initiatives to end the practice that for decades has enabled politicians to choose their voters instead of voters choosing politicians. But politicians aren't about to give up that advantage without a fight — and that fight is now before the state's highest court.
- Jun 22, 2010
Opponents have insistently but unfairly maintained that the DISCLOSE Act favors unions over corporations. In fact, both are treated equally
- Jun 17, 2010
The DISCLOSE Act most certainly should be signed into law this year and there are encouraging signs that it will be. Despite the recent hubbub made by special interests from across the political spectrum over the “NRA fix”, the bill remains a strong and necessary piece of legislation that will require accurate and timely disclosure of the big money being spent to influence elections.
- Jun 16, 2010
An army of influential Washington, D.C., players is busy working the phones and making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week trying to scuttle the DISCLOSE Act. The question now facing Members of the House is whether the DISCLOSE Act is worth voting for now that the "NRA fix" has been added. The answer is yes. Here’s why.
- May 11, 2010
On May 11, 2010, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter testified before the Committee on House Administration regarding the legislative response to the Supreme Court’s activist ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. Potter discussed the DISCLOSE Act and offered suggestions for modifying the legislative language in anticipation of inevitable court challenges.
- Jun 25, 2009
For two years, we were on opposite sides of a historic election, serving as general counsels to the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns. Our experiences led us to an inescapable conclusion: Bringing our voter registration system into the 21st century must be the priority for improving the election process.
The follwing opinion piece was published in The Washington Post on June 25, 2009.