Independent expenditure

Will Disclosure Save Us From the Corrupting Influence of Big Money?

You'll have to do a lot better than that. (stockmonkeys.com)
There is going to be a lot of speculation about how the Supreme Court's decision in McCutcheon v. FEC to eliminate the aggregate limits on campaign contributions will affect the influence of big money in politics. That's because it serves to make an already complex system a little more complex, and there are multiple ways the decision could matter; on the other hand, it might make no difference at all. For the moment, I want to consider the role of disclosure, because I think it's going to become increasingly important in the near future, particularly if the Court goes all the way and eliminates all contribution limits. It should be said that in this case, they could have done that, but decided not to (only Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, advocated eliminating all limits). But there is some reason to believe that the conservatives on the Court will go there eventually. And if they do, disclosure is going to be their justification: that as long as we know who's giving money...

Governor Cuomo Announces Campaign Finance Reform Package

Flickr/saebaryo
Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his own proposal for public financing of campaigns. The governor’s proposal adds to several others currently under consideration to get money out of the electoral system in the state. After a year of high-profile corruption scandals and arrests , it’s clear that something must be done. In early April, the state senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (a breakaway group of Democratic senators that joined with Republicans to give the GOP control over the state senate) issued a proposal for campaign finance reform. Among the highlights, the proposal completely bans corporate contributions, eliminates transfers between state parties and individual political committees, and increases disclosure requirements. The proposal also eliminates party “housekeeping” accounts, which are used to finance campaign related costs, such as overhead, office space, and utilities. There is currently no limit to the amount of contributions these committees...

Not in Montana

(Flickr/polytikus)
At the opening of each oral argument session, a Supreme Court clerk announces, “All those having business before this honorable Court draw nigh and you shall be heard.”But does the Court really listen? We are about to witness an interesting case study. Late last week, the Court announced a stay of the Montana’s Supreme Court’s judgment in Western Tradition Partnership v. Bullock . In that case , a majority of the state court in essence said to the Supreme Court majority, “You boys don’t know enough to pour water out of a boot.” The opinion was a direct challenge to the Court’s most controversial decision in at least a decade— Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission . The Court will now consider a formal petition for cert., due by the end of next month. Citizens groups, states, and business groups can file amicus briefs on the issues raised by the case, laying out their critique of Citizens United . Two Justices of the Court have invited them to do exactly that. In a statement...

Super Facts about Super PACs

L ast week, when Mitt Romney claimed not to have seen an attack ad his campaign had produced, he was no doubt trying to blame his super PAC, Restore Our Future, for coming up with it. Whether or not the former Massachusetts governor was being truthful—one can imagine that, in a fast-moving campaign, candidates only passively approve the messages their surrogates put out—the incident underscored the way super PACs, which are barred from coordinating directly with the candidates they are supporting, have come to dominate the political landscape. In the first presidential race since the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United , which opened the doors for corporations to make unlimited contributions in support of a candidate, campaign-finance law is at the center of the election cycle like never before. One question that’s come up again and again is whether Citizens United should be blamed for the rise of super PACs and for the apparent spike in large private donations, like...

Where Are the Rich Liberals?

Changes in electoral law often shift elections in ways that cannot be predicted. Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination in '76 thanks to his understanding of the new primary rules that favored victories in early states rather than hobnobbing with party elites in smoke-filled rooms. The rise of the super PAC could play a similar role in 2012, completely revamping the operation of presidential campaigns. Thanks to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, this new type of group is allowed to raise unlimited campaign funds from both individuals and corporations. Super PACs started to test the waters of the new landscape in the 2010 election with American Crossroads, a group founded by Karl Rove, spending over $25 million last year, primarily on ads against Democrats in midterm congressional races. There is an independent super PAC raising funds for each of the presidential candidates, and Bill Burton left his post as deputy press secretary at the White House to start...