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William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Campaign Finance (page 1 of 7)

Money Talks, but Donors’ Voices Don’t Matter

By: Helen L. Brewer

The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that spending money on political campaigns is a First Amendment right. Donations to, and expenditures by, campaigns—according to the Court—are political speech. As such, the First Amendment protects this money from government regulation. Laws can only place limits on campaign money if there is a risk the money will cause quid pro quo corruption or the appearance of such corruption. Therefore, despite the First Amendment’s protection of campaign funds, individual donations to candidate campaigns can be limited by the government. This prevents an individual from donating mass amounts of money to a campaign in exchange for special treatment when the candidate is elected to office.
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Campaign Finance and Court Cases and Killed Bills, Oh My!: Is Oregon on the Way to Contribution Limits?

By: Laura Misch

Currently, Oregon is one of five states—along with Alabama, Nebraska, Utah, and Virginia—that allows for unlimited campaign contributions. As a result, the money has been pouring into state elections. Just last year, the gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Kate Brown and Republican Knute Buehler became the most expensive one in the state’s history, as contributions amounted to over $37 million. Phil Knight, a co-founder of Nike, alone donated $2.5 million to the Buehler campaign. The Oregonian also published a series called “Polluted by Money,” which found that over the last ten years corporate interests gave more money to Oregon lawmakers than any other state in the United States.

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A Conversation with Professor Ken Mayer: Voter ID and Election Law in Wisconsin

By Richard J. Batzler

In recent years, Wisconsin has been a battle ground over many controversial election law changes, including a voter ID requirement. I spoke with University of Wisconsin Professor Mayer about his research on the impacts of voter ID in Wisconsin and recent election law changes in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Kenneth Mayer is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Mayer’s election law scholarship includes campaign finance, voter identification, and election administration. Additionally, Professor Mayer has filed expert reports in cases involving voting rights, gerrymandering, and campaign finance, among other issues. Continue reading

Mo’ Money, Less Democracy: Washington D.C.’s Quest for Fair Elections

By: Evan Tucker

“[T]he notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was clear when queried about Citizens United: large spending in elections by a few eviscerates the essence of democracy. Government in America is “by the People, for the People;” it is not “by the few, for the few.” At the seat of the United States government, District Councilmember David Grosso introduced the “Fair Elections Act of 2017.” Councilmember Grosso aims to “reform campaign financing and to provide for publicly funded political campaigns.” Campaign donations are necessary in electoral politics, for modern-day campaigns are incredibly expensive. For Grosso, though, democracy should not be sold to the highest bidder; that is to say, the largest donor having their preferred candidate elected and in turn having that candidate only responsive to the donor. By introducing his bill, he seeks to establish a balance by “establishing a robust public financing program.”

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West Virginia Campaign Finance Pilot Program

By: Jordan Smith

This blog is no stranger to the judicial election structure in the State of West Virginia.  In 2015, one of our posts discussed West Virginia’s transition from partisan to nonpartisan judicial election.  Today, this blog returns to the West Virginia judiciary to discuss the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Public Campaign Financing Pilot Program (“Pilot Program”).

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All GAB, No Action

By: George Nwanze

There is an old Latin saying “quis custodiet ipsos custodes” or “who will watch the watchers.” This saying has been invoked countless times over the centuries to suggest that to those who great power is conferred, it must be tempered with oversight. In the state of Wisconsin, however, it is not readily apparent who is behind the wheel of the state’s election process. Starting in 2008, Wisconsin sought to venture in a bold new direction in campaign finance law with its creation of a nonpartisan board, the Government Accountability Board (GAB), that would be tasked with regulation of campaign finance in the state. The GAB had its impetus in the 2001 campaign scandal in which staffers in the state legislature impermissibly used state funds to engage in partisan campaigning. In response to this scandal—in which both sides were accused of misappropriation of public funds–the first act of the 2007 legislative session called for the creation of a state agency, a combination of the state’s ethics and election boards, that would be charged with election supervision.

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D.C. Campaign Finance Reform

By: Alyssa Kaiser

The world of campaign finance exploded after the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision, Citizens United v. FEC. This decision greatly impacted elections on the national stage and critics raised concerns about the ability of those with the financial means to buy elections. There are also fears about the impact of the decision on elections going forward. States struggle with similar issues in campaign finance, with concerns of “pay to play” politics controlling the District elections. The District of Columbia has important decisions to make going forward if it wants to restore confidence in its elections.

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Maine’s Attempt at PAC Regulation 

By: Eric Reid

 The issue of money in politics is certainly nothing new, but recent elections have shined a national spotlight on the issue of campaign finance. U.S. federal election campaigns have become increasingly expensive, and the past three presidential election cycles have seen a steep rise in spending. The 2016 election price tag was an incredible $6.8 billion, which was an $800 million increase in spending since the 2012 election. It is important to note that this figure includes money spent by both campaigns, outside groups, and independent organizations. Federal congressional races have fared no better. The 2012 presidential election was in turn a $700 million increase from the 2008 election. The special congressional election in Georgia in June saw the candidates and Super PACs spend a whopping $55 million.
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If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: Seattle’s counterintuitive response to too much money in politics

By: Anna Ellermeier

In November 2015, voters in Seattle approved Initiative 122, creating the first-ever Democracy Voucher Program. The program provides registered Seattle voters with four vouchers—or “democracy dollars”—each worth $25. Voters can then take these vouchers and give them to any candidate for city council, mayor, or city attorney who participates in the program.

Graphic_Democracy Voucher program

The idea for the initiative grew out of a concern about the role campaign financing plays in Seattle elections, and the sentiment that the rich, through their money, have a larger voice in politics. For example, a 2013 study revealed that half of the money raised for races in Seattle’s 2013 election cycle came from just 1,683 donors, which is about 0.3% of Seattle adults.

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The Sunlight Keeps Shining: The Supreme Court’s Denial of Certiorari Means that Delaware’s Disinfectant Election Disclosure Law Remains

By: Owen Ecker

In the wake of Citizens United v. FEC, Delaware took it upon itself to counteract the perceived “opening of the floodgates” ushered in by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of corporate third party political expenditures.  As the state’s first major alteration in campaign finance laws for over two decades, House Bill 300, established to generate a greater amount of disclosure from third party advertisers, passed both houses of Delaware’s General Assembly by large margins (about 65 percent in the House of Representatives and 100 percent in the Senate) in 2012.  Thereafter, the Governor of Delaware signed the Delaware Elections Disclosure Act (the “Act”) into law, which became effective in 2013.  However, litigation ensued over the Act’s constitutionality, with one lawsuit making its way up to the Supreme Court.

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